The Washington Times-Herald

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February 28, 2014

Tornado recovery slows to a crawl

The recovery from the tornado that hit Washington and western Daviess County last November appears to have slowed to a crawl. A flurry of activity for two or three weeks immediately after the storm has been replaced by condemnation notices and blue tarps.

“It feels disheartening that the progress seems to have stalled,” said Daviess County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Goss. “I don’t know if it is because of the weather or insurance issues or if the economics of the area are getting in the way of getting things rebuilt. I’m worried that we may end up with a blighted neighborhood.”

The Sycamore Street corridor was the area hardest hit by the EF-2 tornado. Washington officials are concerned that it may produce some lingering impacts for the community. “There were some homes in the area that were not insured and some that appear to have been abandoned,” said Mayor Joe Wellman.

The city has already begun condemnation procedures on eight homes damaged in the storm. “Fortunately, no one is living in those,” said Wellman. “They are still a safety issue that the city has to deal with.”

When it comes to dealing with abandoned homes and property the safety issue may last for months or longer.

“There is a legal procedure we have to follow,” said Wellman. “It includes notifying the owner, advertising, public hearings and waiting periods.”

Each one of those steps can create more delays. “We have one home that was part of a foreclosure by an out of state bank,” explained Wellman. “Getting in touch with them and getting a response has been difficult.”

Not all of the condemned homes may be headed for the wrecking ball. “We have to get with the owners and see if they can be fixed or if they need to come down,” said Wellman. “Hopefully the owners will step up and fix them up. That would be the best of both worlds, but if they don’t it could fall upon the city to begin an adverse possession and tear them down.”

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