The topic of the June 30th storm update came up at two city meetings on Monday night. At the Park commissioners meeting, Ron Bursek, retiring director of public works administration, felt the city did a very good job. Between Jeff Warnock, park superintendent, and Ron, they had crews out by 6:30 am the following day. The entire city was assessed for damages in one day using four people. They also made the necessary contacts with contract crews to assist in the clean-up efforts. Citizens appreciated the quick response.
The parade was a top priority, then the fireworks clean-up downtown. There were 250 trees down throughout the city, with between 700 and 800 trees damaged. All of the departments pitched in: Parks, with the Streets Division, the Waste Division, and Water Utility. Warnock said that homes were to be finished up by Tuesday. He encouraged the citizens and alderpersons to “keep looking up,” and to report any weakened trees; another one fell just the other day. Apparently, a farmer has expressed his interest in the root balls for his cattle to eat. The city will have the cost of transport, but the commissioners felt that this was a good recycling idea. Plus, the city can now make its own wood chips! Engineering continues its review of the sidewalks. There is still no total cost estimate for the damages to the city. It was pointed out that FEMA does not cover straight time costs, only overtime. Workers have been putting in fourteen-hour days all last week and over the weekend. Some trees need to come down, and some will be re-planted.
Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia had a question about his underground sprinkling system, which was already installed when he purchased his house. There is an ordinance prohibiting installation of underground sprinklers in parkways; therefore, the city is not responsible for any damage done to these systems.
Alderperson Michael Orth stated that he heard “grumblings” from city residents looking for the county’s help. Also, the Sheriff’s Department was not seen visibly assisting in the clean-up efforts. Bursek stated that we have a mutual aid agreement with the city of Racine, but not with our own county. Alderperson Anthony Kennedy asked if it was a “push or pull system.” “Did we request help, and they didn’t come, or did we not request the help?” No one knew the answer to this question.
Kennedy also raised the idea of having a more aggressive pruning system for the trees, but Bursek stated that that’s very expensive, and it doesn’t help the environment with the carbon dioxide emissions and the retention of water. Therefore, they felt that idea had limited returns. “Hopefully, we’ll not see another storm like that in eighty years,” said Bursek.
At the Public Safety and Welfare Committee meeting later that same evening, chief of police John Morrissey gave an update on the power outage in the Public Safety Building the night of the storm. Power was out from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm the following night. Generators were used to run dispatch and operations. Phones were in operation, but the computers were down. Morrissey has emergency power outlets and lights in his office. The operations center and the computer room have emergency power.
Morrissey says that he has a huge new generator now under his office. ”Did he feel that they were underpowered?” Morrissey replied in the affirmative. “A bigger issue,” he felt, “was where we lied on Webco’s priority list. It was adjusted shortly thereafter,” he said. Because the main generator kicked in, a fire started. As a result, they had to rip a wall out.
Kennedy asked the chief to provide a “critical operations list,” operations which he felt need to be powered 24/7. “Do we need to rent big truck generators?” he asked. Morrissey felt that critical needs were met. The front counter was dark; there were two women sitting in the dark answering phones. Another critical area was the basement. The garage doors didn’t open obviously; they had to be opened manually. It then became a security issue, because they had to station an officer there. Kennedy merely wanted to make sure that Morrisey had the tools he needed to properly perform his job.