A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from the small community of Comfrey, Minnesota, following the destructive March tornadoes that struck the area. Mark Steil talks with residents and local officials about recovery, rebuilding, and remembering.
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Mpr's Main Street radio coverage of Royal issues is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening communities through grant-making leadership training and convening. Good morning. I Mark style and welcome to the special Main Street radio edition of midday where in come free at st. Paul's Catholic Church this church served as the town's command post after a tornado struck the community March 29th. It's been 7 weeks and 2 days since that stormy Sunday afternoon. And in much has changed here in town. Most of the destroyed buildings and houses have been all the way in the first steps of rebuilding have been taken back here at the church Carpenters at this moment are working on the roof repairing the shingles in outside. Our doors hear a noon meal will soon be served two people working in town and for residents to us as that goes with us today our country mayor Linda Wallen and can be City administrator. John Mayer will be talking about country today, but also about small towns in general in their economic hell would like to hear your thoughts call us at one 800-537-5252 nearly two months after the tornado County residents probably are sick. The words devastated and destruction and they're replacing them with some are words like recovery rebuilding but still remembering Tom Christopher the administrator of the church where we're sitting Saint Paul showed me around town recently including a business, which has reopened its doors. Hudson reality set in you know, a person is so busy and you know, there's so much going on with construction Crews and and and big heavy equipment trees being cut down. Everything was just hurry hurry hurry, and now it's it's slowed down to a place where people have to realize it's going to be a long journey. Yeah, I've been visiting some of our prisoners in neighboring towns who have relocated. Sleepy Eye in apartments there and Springfield Morgan Tracy Lambert and people have best leaf and out to live in different places and some will come back with apartments and houses are built others won't So that's hard things are not normal and they won't be normal for a long time if ever. I see that the other bank time and temperature clock is is still still flashing tell me about that. Well, it's one of the things that I know my wife and I look for when we're biking or walking through town is what time is it? And that really was something that was missed by a lot of people that first week or two until they got it going again. I was like a real sign of of Hope and a normal C4 a lot of the people in the town here. Across from post office were looking at Hardware Hank store its owner is Leon Halle was also city council member and it's been repaired and it's up and running last couple weeks. We did have a quite a bit of damage to the building. Nothing too much in the interior. We had a couple holes punched through the roof and so forth. But we basically all had to put this new skin on the on the exterior of the building and the Ruffin. and that but it's back in business and I was very fortunate to be able to get a contractor to come in and do the job almost right away. How do you feel about the future of the town now? Well, I'm very very optimistic. Obviously. I I am optimistic or I probably wouldn't have rebuilt just about every business person that lost their business in town here is planning on the rebuild and I expect to see a lot ended that the walking tour brings us back to st. Paul's Catholic Church here in comfrey. Good morning. I'm Mark style. We're in the church basement actually in a room set off from the main hall of the church basement. It's a room that's been used heavily during the tornado in the aftermath. And right now there's all sorts of food and and Pepsi and Mountain Dew and cases of potato chips in the boxes of creamed corn and cans of tuna all stored in here. The church basement still serves as a meal each day for the people in town and then workers and then that sort of thing and actually the people here are the volunteers are serving about 200 people that day within that that noon meal. So there's a lot going on now country. Mayor. Linda Moline is with us here in the church basement of st. Paul's Catholic Church. Good morning, Linda. Good morning. There's a lot happening at comfrey construction going on a lot of house roofs being repaired Windows being put in that sort of thing. But also some major more major projects. I mean at least one house has been has been rebuilt to put back on a foundation and and that sort of things going on several new homes coming out. We have some some modular manufactured homes. They call him a lot of basements going out for those. We have one business that's almost totally been rebuilt. He's hoping within the next month to six weeks to be open. And as far as the rest of the downtown and the municipal area were in the early stages. We had a task force that has been up and running for the last 3 weeks. We're getting to the last couple weeks of that. I'll looking at how to design the downtown how to rebuild it and what we're basically being told as we're doing a 1 to 2. Project in a six-week time span, so it's been a lot of crashing. It's been a lot of meetings but a lot of good things have come out of that which is initially when a tornado hits, you know, it was it was total devastation and it was very depressing very easy. I think for them to think there's no way that we can ever live in come free again that we'll never have a downtown will have no churches. It's just gone and I think within a 2 or 3 days of the tornado hitting I think that whole frame of mind had changed we tried to stay really close tried to stay focused. I had Community meetings and I did a lot of things with the school the business district and then went to the residence and said, okay they're coming back. We need you too. And I think it's been positive ever since we've got our ups and downs. We've got our bad days, but overall, I think it's a very positive note here. If things work out and he thinks they will that school will be in comfrey next year of likely in some temporary type buildings were really hoping for in the children really want that to my son. Is that is that going to be a sophomore in town? And he really would like to be back in comfrey and go to school the children have enjoyed being in Sanborn. I think it's been good for them all to be together. But come freeze their home. This morning is a can be City administrator. John Mayer know John has done quite a bit of research on small town on small towns econ economies population Trends in this region. Good morning, John. The residents have reacted to the tornado damage of typical of a small towns in this part of the state. I think generally because maybe the events related to the change and communities takes take alot long. Is a tendency of not being very United then and focused the deal with certain issues and as a consequence you maybe have the spiraling down a continuation of maybe a spiraling down in the case of country where they had to deal with its immediacy. Maybe they've had an opportunity to react and react in the very positive way. So some of these small-town battles that we read about in and cover as reporters where they're fighting over the location of a new store or the weather. We pave this road or not. Sometimes those fights are so contentious at the project doesn't get down and get done and that hurts the town's economy. That's obviously a very Consolidated effort that the Merit put together which had typically NY unfortunate that I get to study at endview much Minnesota in my I do a lot of management and development advice also, so I get to see a lot of different places and it's phenomenal. Haha smaller places and has been the way the mirror has directed this Focus to town at rebuilding and Hold a lot of those those battles that occurred. Typically he hear some of the people moving around here in the background moving boxes in and things up as we said that they'll be serving a meal here over the noon hour in the church basement. St. Paul's Catholic church and a couple hundred people we turning out and I saw in the kitchen half-dozen people preparing the food getting everything ready. And that's that's got to be part of the the spirit of the drawing together. I guess it what's going on here have I asked for all along as to continue the meals and at the way it's going now with the volunteers in the Salvation Army that will in the end of this month, but we have called in region 9 to assist us to continue that because I really see a need for the people to be together on a daily basis. We have no restaurant in town. That's the big thing that has really hurt us as far as keeping the people together. We were a very close Community as far as coffee in the morning coffee at noon coffee at 2:30 in the afternoon. And we really hate to see all of that disappear. So that's why the meals will continue here for quite some time maps that you have on the walls in the church basement to mean talking about the Redevelopment basically of the city core our citizens getting interested in that are when you are you hearing a lot of comments on what to what they like to see done to rebuild a lot of personal comments them to do things in writing and they really don't commit themselves but we do here a lot of a lot of different things from them has made people really think about what it needs to look like and we have been having Community meetings. They have been informed on a timely basis. In fact last Thursday. We had one and told them and show them what we're looking at. We will be doing that again in another two weeks. We try to keep them very informed what's going on. So there's no Sizes for anybody if things went as well as they could win might Son construction be occurring on Main Street. I mean when when my first business break around 2 to put up a building. I think the one that we're hearing is going to happen probably within the next week or two is the people state agency. It's an insurance agency that's connected with our bank, and as far as the municipal part, we're just in the stages of either hiring a land developer or an architect, so we could be looking, you know at a couple months. They're some of the other businesses. I know. I've already hired Architects. They're getting their plans drawn, so there's going to be a lot of rebuilding, but it could be in a 2-3 months before they get started broadcasting from comfrey on this beautiful Tuesday morning. If you have a question or comment for our guests, call us at one 805-3752 +521-800-537-5252 would also like to invite you to visit the Main Street Radio website go to www.mpr.org and click on Main Street. You can hear Main Street to radio reports and also you can hear this program live on the internet. If you miss part of the program, it's a nice way to catch up. You can go to our website again that address www.npr.org and then click on Main Street in to catch up on. What's going on. I joining us now by telephone is a Paul Lawson who's with the state's Emergency Management agency and Paul. Welcome to the show. Thank you. That's great. How can you give us a rundown on what do the final damage Tally's look like from the March 29th tornado tornadoes I should say there are there are many ways to to slice and dice it but the number I've been carrying around in my head. Is that a 235 million dollar disaster. That's probably a little low and the cost of building that 235 million would break into about a hundred and seventy-five million dollars in insured losses. And these are the insurance payments made by all the agencies that were affected approximately a 30 million dollars in federal dollars that are coming in either in assistance for the individuals who are local governments or in the amount of money. They spent putting their people on the ground in the state and approximately the same amount of money another 30 million or so and state resources that were poured into the project whether it's the 27 million dollar disaster relief pack. Lakeshore the state agency staff and time that have gone into the effort. Can you give us a rundown on the number of houses destroyed is roughly 2,000 that suffered some kind of damage throughout the whole effort looking at you know, the 7 County area or at 8 pending on how much a accounting the few homes in Watonwan County there about 450 Homes at our best total that were destroyed which means that they were completely destroyed to the point that they couldn't even be rebuilt or repaired are they have to essentially be started over about 630 homes suffered major damage, which meant they are repairable. However, they can't be lived in while they're being repaired. And then there's another roughly a thousand homes that suffered some kind of damage that is repairable. But obviously is a certain an inconvenience if not more of a problem. I was going to be a lot of federal money coming into the tornado area. And the way it works I'm told is that the federal pay 75% of of a given Bill the state matches at with 15% and local governments are to come up with 10% Now the state had said if I'm correct that they'll pick up the 10% local money and the breakdown of 75% Federal and then 25% being shared between the state and local entities is a state-by-state decision traditionally in this state. The breakdown you gave is true 75% Federal 15% State 10% local in the red river floods in the Minnesota river floods of last spring and then with this disaster of the state of stepped in and said we're willing to pick up, you know, the 10% of that local share, but the governor also has asked that those communities take the money they would have spent matching this and also bring the To the table for disaster relief. Is there a danger in the future if the state to kind of institutional Liza's, you know, the fact that they'll pick up the 10% local money that via the state will be hit with some heavy bills in the future at that is certainly a possibility and I think there's actually two layers to that question I want is that the 10% that's the local share in whether or not the state should pay that or not. That's a kind of a long-standing policy debate on the other side. I think there's a definite Trend at the federal level for them to reduce their involvement with disasters. So the state has to confront both potentially picking up to 10% and how to deal with the 75% because that question will be put at our feet in the next two to four years. No question about it the damaged area which are in danger of falling through the cracks. Let's say that the cannot find help to to rebuild and that one that comes to mind is the same Peter Arts and Heritage Center. Correct that it is a facility. That's you know on our list Minnesota formed after the floods of 93 a group called the Minnesota recovers task force. And the purpose of that group was the coordinates all the federal and state disaster relief funding streams that come in after an event that at group was very active after the floods of 97 and is very active in This Disaster One of the Prime concerns of that group is identifying facilities such as the one you described and then making sure they don't fall through the cracks. There may be some buildings that simply can't be addressed because there is money to deal with them. However, our goal is to at least know about it and that group is well aware of the facility you talked about I want to thank you for joining us this morning. That was Paul Lawson who's the state Emergency Management director with us here in the country our company mayor Linda wylene and also, Call John Mayer Who is the city of ministrator at can be if you have a telephone comment or question, call us at 800-537-5252. Let's take a call now. Our first caller. Actually, I believe grew up in come free. Good morning, Diane. Yes, I am a country graduate 1963 Diane Kratts toys, and I want to compliment Maryland Overland. I'm doing a terrific job and in organizing this recovery, and I came across a quote that I really thought brings home to buy comfrey should be rebuilt. It's so if I could read it quickly, it's what is a city a city is more than buildings and Roads city is families to feed into house children to educate adults to employ and to transport. He said he has business is to build profits to be made culture and recreation to be enjoyed opportunities to be realize but more important than anything. He said he has people city is all of us. Thank you. Okay, I was Diane from Burnsville calling a mayor. Well with what's it been like for you personally. This crisis send me to do it seemed like it would burn up an enormous amount of hours initially. I have another job and so initially I just forgot about that for about three weeks and devoted all of my hours to the city of comfrey and then I realized it was time to look at the other part of my life and I have returned to my job at the Springfield hospital. I'm the lab manager there so that job demands a lot of time of me too as well as the city if I was a bench Tech and did not have a lot of responsibilities. It wouldn't be quite so bad, but I have returned three days a week and any other two days a week I spend in the city as well as after 3:30 in the afternoon. I spend in the city for two to three hours each evening, so it's stressful. But what I've tried to do is just take one day at a time not look at tomorrow and not look. 5 days from now what's going to happen and that's really helped me get through this with the sauce was John Mayer from what can be I think that's something that small towns find a lot of that other people in the leadership position even outside of his house for like a tornado have to put in a lot of hours in that they tend to burn out. Absolutely. No question about the fact that if you look at the the 10-year that elected official stay in public office these years compared with the tenure used to be it significantly shorter. I'm not sure how long the mirror has been elected here. But it's I'm sure that through these events for 10-year might be shorter than this because of what kind of problems does that pose for a small town when they can't find was a consequence. It's almost a recruitment effort to try to find good legitimate candidates are willing to commit the public good to participate that public process then why did you decide to run? Well, I have a very interesting story behind me. I did serve on city council 10 years prior to becoming mayor I had discussed with my husband as well as the person who was mayor prior to my going on that. I really would like to be mayor at some point in time. But I was trying to push it off for another two years because I had some other things that just needed to be accomplished but it just so happened that the mayor we had decided not to run and so we got into a write-in campaign in town winded up with four people putting their name in the paper saying that they would take write-in votes and I ended up being the last one to do that. I had a lot of people requesting in town, you know me to run for it cuz I'd had a certain amount of years on the city council and did have a handle on what was going on. The other three people one had been on city council the other two had no prior experience and they really did not want to see someone sitting in the mayor's seat. That had no experience. So it ended up being a write-in campaign. We ended up with that. I 45 votes at the top with the restaurant owner and myself and I One whether it was unfortunate unfortunate on the flip of a coin the way to decide a race like that is by choice a lots is what the state of Minnesota told us. And so our attorney decided that flip of a coin would be appropriate rather than a hat on a name out of a hat or picking a straw and I had decided that morning that that was going to happen that it made no difference to me whether I won that slipper. I lost that slept because I would be on city council one way or the other to finish out my two years and I am the restaurant owner chose tails and it was his and that's how I became mayor last January 97 For the tornado did I mean it is a difficult to find people or was it difficult to find people to serve on boards volunteer type things, you know, they had to do a city government where you get into some real nitty-gritty about making decisions end up analyzing things of that sort of research a small town that is an issue. Generally. It seems like it's the same people that all was really pitch in buckle down really make sure that things go the way they should have you look at our committees in town are organizations. It's basically the same people all the time. We have had a turnover in city council, which is good. You know, we've had some that have been on there for several years, but we have now basically is a pretty fresh city council. We've gotten a lot of the younger ones to be involved some of the people like for instance the man that owns the Hardware Hank move to comfrey I don't know if it's for 5 years ago moved from a town north of the Cities down here and really wanted to become involved in the city so that Tank was one of his prime reasons for for looking to the city council, but we have we have had to turn over and we've never been at the point of where we really had. No one we've always had someone come forward to do the job as a tornado re-energized people do to get involved in in city government have a few up for election this fall and we'll see what happens radio broadcast from come free with us today our country mayor Linda Wally and also coming over from Canby John Mayer who's a city administrator there and has a Ph.D. I understand in sociology and has had been done some work researching out. Population trends of economic factors in this part of the state so stay with us. If you have a question, maybe have a a comment on whether small towns of this sort of effort should go into small towns, you know, are they are they is it worth rebuilding small towns? Call us at 1 800-537-5252. Quick look at the weather the forecast today for the state of Minnesota calls for partly cloudy in the north sunny and the Central and South with the high temperatures around 70 in the North 285 in the South tonight to clear the partly cloudy low temperatures 4555 in on Wednesday. What should have sunny skies with high temperatures 65 to 78. 11 readings around the region Sioux Falls 79 Fargo 67 Bemidji 66 Duluth 73 Rochester 77 Mankato reporting 79° this morning and in the Twin Cities, the temperature is 78. Like to remind you that NPR's Main Street radio coverage of Royal issues is supported by the blandin foundation committed to strengthening communities through grant-making leadership training and convening. I also like to remind you that coming up at noon today. The second part of this program will have a discussion on feedlots, and we'll have a couple of state legislators in the studio with us state senator Steve deal and also state representative Gerry kubly from Granite Falls will be buying will also be taking your questions and comments during that two segments coming up at the noon hour. What happened in country? Is it something which illuminates at Alan's name for decades think of some of the other communities which have been struck by tornadoes like get Barneveld, Wisconsin or Tracy Minnesota not too far from here six years ago a swarm of tornadoes destroyed hundreds of homes in southern Minnesota the towns of Chandler like Wilson Clark Field in Cokato all suffered heavy damage, but Chandler was the hardest hit and we're going to be talking a little bit about their experience and what they went through in the tornado recovery in just a few minutes. And what comes to mind is that in Chandler there was that there is so much bureaucracy to deal with I would think in the aftermath of a tornado that must just seemed like it be overwhelming at times to get through all that paperwork. Now we're just saying the effects of that now intact we were discussing some of that before I came here, you know the funding that it gets here in a timely fashion that the people that really need to get paid get paid in all we have quite a a Big Bill from all the contractors that were here early on and now to get them paid in a timely fashion and just get someone to organize all that and run that for us we are in the process of working with region 9 and hiring a recovery disaster coordinator. In fact, we started interviews today and hopefully we'll we'll finish those today but to get somebody on board that really can help us and understand that and get us through that process is what we need. Just because the if you could so detailed and time-consuming, I would guess right and we do not have the expertise for that type of type of job the city clerk or myself or anyone else within the city of comfrey. So it's best that we hire someone from outside to do that for us to translate site. Absolutely. You know, we see here and come for the rebuilding going on in and hopefully it looks like most of the people are going to rebuild their homes businesses that sort of thing. So there's a chance that the community will be spirited a drastic population decline because it's of the tornado but overall through the decades what's going on, especially in this part of the state Southwest Minnesota as far as a small town homes in in the rural areas and their populations will generally but actually beginning back in 1940. We began to experience a significant migrations in and out and I are part of the state because we basically yeah gone from a labor-intensive agricultural-based one. That's more capital-intensive for the consequences. If communities had to come up with other economic opportunities for it for that labor that man was available. It wasn't able to come up with opportunities. Obviously those populations have left and over time. We've kind of emerged from from agrarian to trying to become more Diversified through educational resources through other types of opportunities. Unfortunately, wait, we probably haven't done a very good job of capturing the labor feel like I've got migration rates are fairly significant education has maybe become more of a the opportunity for out migration rather than one that preserves the population and I think there's a lot less generous generational connection to communities where a family is because of children leaving population Samhain when family parents that retire, they they choose to relocate where the family is. So the consequence we've had the spiraling population that has gone down and the to the point that the whole identity of some of these small places really becomes at risk and in the case of comfrey here and as well as well. They know I losing their school. For example, why losing their Cafe Other Bar their places of congregation, but have a significant impact on their whole identity and their ability to sustain themselves. What do towns do to try to bring in A manufacturing type business or something that would generate jobs Beyond a service industry that type of setting like like a bar or restaurant to that sort of thing back in about the 1960s not to criticize but I think Southwest Minnesota made of real significant tactical are where they attempted to broadcast themselves as being a place for salaried people available. And as a consequence that that whole reputation of all has always kind of stayed with the process of the kinds of industries that have developed off your overtime. I've been ones that have hired people that have really low salary and unfortunately than the tenure with these industries has really short that and as a consequence you still have that on migration while you had a tendency of trying to reduce about migration you may have in fact increased in overtime. So he attempts to total or industry. have maybe feel what what what weather is what is the future hold? I mean give up on that idea or or change of tactics and and and try to bring into the in some jobs. I think either you're always going to have an attempt but the target has to change. I think the ability to work with local entrepreneurs are really important that we haven't even been able on here to even sustain a local entrepreneurs who had a tendency of even let them migrate somewhere else. There's a lot of talent that leaves here in the form of high school and college students that have business ideas that we haven't been able to capture. So, you know, where may be a victim of hours of not being able to even take care of our own population and those possible opportunities listening to a special Main Street radio broadcast to from country were in the church basement at the st. Paul's Catholic Church in with me are comfrey mayor Linda will lean and also can be City administrator John Mayer. I'm Mark style and Marilyn I'm intrigued by the idea that you know the tornado compressed the whole sequence of events that many small towns go through compress that sequence of events here and Country in that many small towns go through a year-long process of deciding what to do with downtown trying to regenerate it rejuvenate it years it can last income free of this has been compressed as you said in the you have it would seem an opportunity really brought on by the tornado to do something which most small towns probably never get a chance at is our time to take advantage of that. If we don't, you know, we will have no downtown and we will have no municipal or school. So we have to take advantage of the situation that we've been dealt with and I really think we're capable of of pulling it off and getting ourselves back on our feet and being someplace five years from now being what we were or maybe even better but we have to stay determined and stay focused out there and if say one business for whatever reason would decide not to rebuild or something would go wrong with the school's plans to rebuild that you know, it would quickly be felt by other businesses homeowners who who may say well, I guess I'm not going to go back to Country either. If that wouldn't go we would be in big trouble. I'm really afraid of that because the downtown counts on count on the school to be there the residence. Do you know you're not going to have a whole lot of people staying in a community if they don't have a school we work very hard to keep comfrey public school here to keep it all by itself. In fact back in January a big meeting was held in our community center looking at some other things or some other avenues we could look at to keep calm preschool here. So if comfrey school is rebuilt, it will not be like it was it may be a concept school. It may have one library in which is public as well as as the school part of it, you know, there's some different things we have to look at we have to be real Innovative and Grill open to ideas when Governor Carlson was here back three days after the tornado hit in this exact same room. That's one of the things he told us you have to realize you got to look at something. It's not going to be the same school wise and and hopefully the people are going to go for that. We've had some meetings on that and it's been real positive one 805-375-2524 at the st. Paul's Catholic Church where the lunch menu for today calls for scalloped potatoes and ham and the chili mac as well as cream puffs for dessert in the I would guess that gets underway at what time is that just a few minutes ago people eating their food and taking a break from all the activity. That's that's going on in income free, but the homeowners in this town when they said there's been some construction activity, but I believe one modular type home was moved in and set up on on the foundation. When will the the real construction of of new houses begin. I mean, is that something that Most people like to get done this summer, I think so. I think it'll go and stages. It's just, you know, finding the funding now finding the money thing where they're at as far as their insurance and SBA money and then if they haven't secured a contract are, you know, they could be running into problems with that but the ones that are really diligent about going this year, you know, those basements are going to be coming up soon. In fact, one of the gals that I work with lost her home completely and she alluded to me the other day that within three weeks there basement should be starting in these are stick built. So stick Built Homes. There's a couple other stick that one's coming up on our phone number for your comments 800-537-5252. We have a barbed from can be on the phone with us. No, good morning Barb. Barb from a campione with us How you doing? Pretty good. I want to tell you please please keep the small hometowns going. I'm a product of a northern. Suburbs of Chicago and also of Dixon Illinois and what I learned in Dixon, Illinois being raised by my grandparents, it's been a basis for a good stable background that has lasted me all my life. Don't let the small towns gold things of you learned in small-town life that you carry with you today with each other how to care for my neighbor. That that type of thing is very important being kind to one another doing for one another ride in my home in my yard in my community and in my school even make May baskets even putting made a spits out. I'll never forget that. I think these things are very important to children growing up today more important than learning how to ride a motorcycle. You know, I'll ask you the question your city administrator of that the city and Southwest Minnesota small towns. We have this background of small towns trying to stay alive a population decline some do better than others. But if you watch a town through decades, even if it's declining their very tenacious in keeping something going in that town. Let me let that seems to be a small town attribute absolutely seems like there is a core population the rest of the population that's multi-generational. It feels somewhat responsible for the well-being of the community and as long as and that because of the length in the generations in the pride and investment they have in that Community. We're going to be very tenacious to try to keep it on the map. So to speak it surprising to hear him talk sometime. At least to me. I mean the people in in in a small town that maybe as an obvious to climb and I'm talking something even smaller than country which is about 500 people but say it down it's 100 people or less maybe no business in town you go there and these people still believe that they can bring a business to town and do this and sometimes they do it enough, but the desert come a point when you know, he's almost a false. Hope in in rejuvenating it down. 7 + free sample and Porter Minnesota, which is probably a couple hundred people and because of family ties have brought in a fairly large manufacturer here in the last couple years and have a spin-off business start. So that's really interesting. How what's the evolution of a community actually has overtime. Let's take another caller now Marcy from Long Lake is with us this morning. Good morning Marcy morning. Thanks for taking my call. I'm a former resident of compromise. My maiden name was kirshnik and right now I live outside of Minneapolis and Long Lake. I just wanted to call and thank you for doing the show first of all because I know that I'm not the only person who grew up in come free now doesn't live there but has daily thoughts of support and prayers for everyone they are. So I just wanted to own in my support in any way I can to Marilyn and everyone who still there dealing with this. HD on a daily basis Marcy, have you been back to come free since the tornado hit to help my sister and her family who owned a dairy farm and I helped my mother move out of country to nearby Springfield actually like I would liken it to a death in the family really very very emotional for all of us devastating to see a place that we love so much this destroyed. Thanks for calling into that phone number again is 800-537-5252. This is a special Main Street radio broadcast from comfrey. We're in the basement of st. Paul's Catholic church with us our company mayor Linda Bolin and also John Mayer who's the city administrator in Canby? Let's a go right away back to the phones in India fluorine from St. Paul is with us. Good morning for him. Flooring from Saint Paul are you with us? Looks like we'll have to pass on that telephone call, but I do take the time to call and give us your thoughts on on small towns. Samira Wiley now What do you envision comfrey looking like in in five? So that's a five years to pick a time frame. What will people see on Main Street for example back hopefully what the business is that we have it's going to look different. We're not going to have the old brick buildings the old wood buildings that we had. It'll be lower type would like to see two story but I don't think that's going to happen. I think it'll be a low profile type downtown. Hopefully we can do some changing of the parking areas and I think as far as a residential the majority of that will all be built back. I would like to see us a try to get some light industrial to help us out with the population to keep that here and I really think if we really work hard our school will still be here in 5 years to the tornado. We've talked about it but never looked at it real heavily and I think now was doing a land-use plan on looking at what our options are in and where we put residential where we put industrial. I think we were We can work on pursuing that type of thing. Do you have that Light Industry? So I projected as being a little gets kind of on the edge of town somewhere or part of what we're looking at when it comes to Light Industry John. You know, I would guess a small town can can get burned on that as well. If they choose the wrong kind of industry or it mean you have to be a little bit careful in in terms of environmental factors and the pollution that sort of thing. I think that that has been a lot of horror stories over over Light Industry industry in general coming to small places and contrasting the local community a lot of their private investment in their new business or takes a lot of time and a lot of experience to find a good suitable mate for a small place like Humphrey a look at the Maynard Minnesota, which is about the size of country that has impact Plastics a HomeTown boy came and stayed and built the company that has 250 people must have to invest in some of the paths that I'm curious not to ask questions necessarily, but what what commitment or some of the favored sons of a country making like a glen Taylor for example Mayor willing to leave that was a question for you this point we have no commitments from anyone. I think it's too early in the stages to be doing that. I know Glenn Taylor has been contacted. I don't know personally himself if he's been talk to you but I know all the person that works with him very closely hasn't but I think Glenn Taylor is a very focused person. He needs to know exactly what's going to happen how it's going to happen and what it's going to cost. So at this point in time, we're not really ready for that. What's your from another small town though and Southwest Minnesota to the community of Chandler which was hit hard by a tornado a 6 years ago in with us. This morning is the city clerk Alviso really went through all of this in handling the paperwork and dealing with the the residents of the Town. Good morning out. What's are two things or are there things still going on in Chandler, which you can say when you see them, you know, this is still part of the tornado aftermath. I thinking of paperwork or questions from citizens. Are there things still going on that are traceable to the tornado the people rebuilding their homes that basically has not been completed. We had the Of a total we had a Holmes year we had in Chandler. We had 48 we're totally destroyed. We had 35 that had considerable damage. We had 29 that had moderate damage and only 9 that didn't have any damage at all and of those that had to considerable damage in the moderate damage. They have all been repaired and of the 48 that were destroyed. I think we have 43 or 44 have been all completely rebuilt and the businesses we have in Chandler here. We have two for five. We had seven that were totally destroyed. And they now have been rebuilt one is rebuilt outside of the city limits. It was our up Co-op or co-op had a fertilizer chemical plant here in Chandler that was destroyed and they chose to build outside of the city limits in order to get there pesticides, you know outside of the city limits altogether severe damage. We had the nine head real severe damage and then moderate damage we had or if I had something I'm that had moderate damage and They are pretty much back to normal and they've all rebuilt or completely renovated their businesses. Is there a part of this process which you can identify you know, now looking back is as the toughest part of the rebuilding process in Chandler the most difficult part on the ones that were totally destroyed. They have to make a decision that has to be made quite soon. Especially if it's a service-oriented business where you know service is the main part of their business and they have to make a decision quite soon because if they will not rebuild in this particular Community than they have to either rebuild in another Community or even take on a total different nature of work for themselves if they do not rebuild their businesses here in Chandler. And that involves asking a lot of questions and I suppose finding out what sorts of help may be out there. And as you said that has come together pretty quick. Is there anything that that turned out to be maybe the most pleasant surprise of the rebuilding process or something that you may not have expected that again looking back you can see occurred. I would guess the thing that really surprised us as a as a city council was the and the community as a whole was a tremendous outpouring of volunteer spiritual from the community surrounding Tanner and went when that comes together that just puts a spark in these people and say do you know we want to be a member we want to be a business or a homeowner in a community. Where is that type of an attitude existion or they just came out by the droves, you know to help first of all clean up and we had a lot of them come and even say help reconstruct a business that was really badly damaged because especially again, I'm going back to the service oriented businesses the customers that needed that service they wanted these businesses up and running again, so they could continue with their their needs as well. Okay. Well thanks for being with us this morning. That was Elvis from Chandler's is the Chandler City Clerk and also the the only full-time employee of that the small Southwest Minnesota community Chandler was hard hit by a tornado 6 years ago and country is going through many of the same things which up Chandler visited doing that to experience with us here in the basement of st. Paul's Catholic Church in can be our income free is the mayor of this community Linda Bolin and from can be as a city administrator there John Mayer. I can hear the people Gathering outside getting ready for that that meal and the I guess looking forward to the future mayor in the planning on on what sorts of things may happen in this town and it will the next few months. the how has the other Federal folks bent get to deal with FEMA and in some of the other agencies is almost make you want to tear your hair out at times. I think that's something slower. They seem to make any special effort to speed things up. When when a disaster occurs. I don't have a real handle on how the private sector is doing with SBA MC Mong that type of thing. I know there's been some frustrations. We've had a real hard time getting people to apply for them there such proud people. They think they don't need any help. So we still been working on those Avenues as far as the city part of it. A lot of that the preliminary work has been done has been sent in and now it's just a waiting game to see when the federal government is going to give it to the state. So that can be distributed to us. We did receive one initial check back about 3 weeks ago to help cover some of it but we have not seen any money since then. Roller City administrator, I can't be I'm sure you go through some of these Grant process as in applying for this and applying for that. I mean it in come free after a tornado. There's no doubt that you don't masturbate as needed but didn't tell him which is not had a disaster a tornado. Do they sometimes maybe put too much hope in getting this Grandeur that Grant and maybe not to taking action on rebuilding an economically part of the town when they sit back and wait instead be kind of smoke screens. So the applications can be smoke screens of really no interest in doing things and as a consequence communities that are really committed to their own to their own welfare have a tendency of not really relying very heavily on Grand financing at putting their programs together. If in fact they have to involve grants to have options if in fact the ground soenneker, so like I said that it can be kind of sometimes Isola Grant application. Give me the wrong message. That's a current. Why is that? Well, I think they they don't demonstrate the real commitment. I think, you know committing. Your own funds is a true test of your interest and I have a real difficult time. With with individuals and places that only commit somebody else's money. I mean that you have to take care of yourself first before anybody else would be really interested in you you see that income free May or that the people are going to put some some of their own money, you know into rebuilding that way especially as a city, you know, we've always done our own thing. We've never counted on a lot of outside funds every year. We had a program where we we did so many blocks completely the infrastructure as well as the pavement the curve in the gutter and it's and we do it on our own we never go for outside funds to help with anything occasionally we will but it's never a large amount of money. It basically comes from the people that live here. Well, I'd like to thank both of you for being with us during this our mayor Linda Bolin from comfrey and can be City administrator John Mayer. Thanks for stopping by thank you. Thank you stay with us. We'll take a break for a new summer. Then be back here in come free with a discussion of livestock feed locks a hot issue with in this part of the state and most of the state as a matter of fact. Highmark Style Are you guys this is Kevin Kling hoping that you listen to my stories on all things considered All Things Considered weekdays at 3 on Minnesota Public Radio know 91.1. You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. 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