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Greensburg – One Step Forward

Planet Green’s Greensburg Series

February, 2009

dillons1At the Merhoff home Mary gets her three little sleepy ones up, dressed, fed, then off to another full day of school and extra curricular activities. Which makes it very hard for this working mom to go all the way to Pratt, 30 miles away for grocery shopping. So she is very excited about Dillons the Greensburg grocery store about to re-open.

Greensburg had a population of 1,500 people before the storm, between 700 and 800 are already back. Steve Hewitt believes to get to the population back to pre-storm levels, the business incubator, schools, hospital, and streetscape needs to be completed. For people to see the reality of Greensburg coming back will motivate them to return with their business’ and residents.

At the only surviving building on Main Street, the S.D. Robinett building, the Goodman’s are getting the main glass for the display windows installed on the first floor. Nine sheets for the displays and transoms plus three sheets for the upstairs window that survived the tornado. Gary Goodman says the progress is good, the parapets for the roof and stone work is complete, the electrical is started and the plumbing starts the next week. After the ok from the Historical Registry,sheet rock work will start upstairs, then the work on the floors. He looks for it to start all coming together in the next two or three months.

Ed Schoenberger works to make sure every grave in the cemetery is marked. Some never had a marker, others were destroyed in storms. For those without, he casts flat concrete markers. Ed also takes storm debris and welds them into sculptures for the cemetery. The kids in the Green Club meet Ed in his shop where he gives them some unique pieces collected after the storm for their community bench project. Ed has been a big recycler all his life, not so much for the ecology of it but because it’s a “fun thing to do”. Levi (Smith) says since they are going to be the greenest city around then they should “reuse stuff and greenify”. This kid has a way with words that gets his point across and makes you grin at the same time. You can’t help but love him!

Steve is anxious for the Sun Chips Business Incubator to open. Originally projected to open in January, snow days and brutal conditions have put them behind schedule. Because of the economy business’ that verbally committed to locating in the incubator have had to back out.

big-well1City Hall is working out of temporary double wide trailers, not adequate for the needs of the community. Everybody is anticipating the completion of the new city hall building. A LEED Platinum facility that will be another statement that Greensburg is recovering. Steve attends a progress meeting that includes John Ryman of ORR Construction that has the Street Scape and City Hall projects. Then they do a walk-thru of the site to point out concerns and iron-out issues.

Ashley Petty is moving all her supplies out of her Elements Day Spa temporary trailer and storing it at her Mom and Dad’s place. Since business has been down, she has decided to take a break until the business incubator is complete and start fresh from there. She’s looking forward to moving into the incubator and says it will be “really nice to be in a green building“.

The former mayor, John Jansen and his family have been in Greensburg since 1973. They own farmland and an accounting practice in town. The Jansens are building their home just inside the city limits so they can still have that country feel. The home is being constructed with ICF (insulated concrete forms), with 6 inches of concrete in the center.

Three weeks after the tornado John became mayor of an annihilated town, his attitude was he would do as much as he could but he couldn’t be on the job 24/7, so he left it to Steve Hewitt to deal with all the bureaucracies from FEMA on down. John says the current mayor (Bob Dixson) is retired and has alot of time to be involved so there has been issues with him second guessing and trying to micro-manage that has been a frustration to Steve. So the city of Alexander has approached Steve about a City Manager job, which John says upset a lot of people because right now changing City Managers is not a bright idea.

Not the cushy little job he originally came to Greensburg to do, Steve gives project updates at a City Council meeting held at the 5.4.7 Arts Center. They are doing things in Greensburg that the average community doesn’t do in 20 years, crammed into a 2 year project and beyond. It’s been a difficult 6 months for Steve dealing with a new city council and the new mayor, his feeling are that Bob Dixson and the new council doesn’t think he is the right person for this massive job, so maybe he will go meet with the other town.

The old Main Street is torn up to make way for the new Street Scape. Crushing the old street concrete to use as road bed under the new, the work is being done right in front of the post office, making access a problem since there is no home mail delivery as of yet, so everybody has to swing by.

The Kids are 20 miles south of Greensburg at the shop of Dustin Sypher an artist/blacksmith who will assist them with their bench project. Taylor (Schmidt) really likes the idea Alexsis (Fleener) had for a circular bench, calling it incredible. But Levi’s epiphany (his word) for a plastic recycle bin in the middle drew silent stares, then laughter, so much for light bulb moments. Charlsea (Crotts) does some welding.

Doug and Kerri Ulrich bring there kids out to the site of their future home. They have been living away for the almost 2 years since the storm. Doug has worked for Frito Lay for 11 years, so Sun Chips (a division of Frito Lay), said they would help them build a green home and get them back to Greensburg . Some of the green elements of their home will be solar, geothermal heating/cooling, and positioning of the house to take advantage of sun light and wind deflection. Their kids are excited to know they are really moving back home.

The County Courthouse remodel is coming along, the mechanical and electrical systems are being installed with a few complications with new systems integrating with a building built in 1914. The foam insulation is being sprayed on which is 43% more energy efficient than fiberglass batting, they are aiming for LEEDs certification.

hospital1Diane Torres is a single mother who could not afford to rebuild. In steps Habitat for Humanity, with tears in her eyes she accepts the keys to her new home. She thanks and hugs all that are crowded into her new home. She has worked at the local hospital for ten years and she and her co-workers are getting very excited about the new hospital being built green and sustainable. Although she says it’s not bad working in the temporary buildings. Kiowa County Hospital has it’s ground-breaking, the design will incorporate natural sun light and natural landscaping materials to help with drainage.

On February 11, 2009 Dillons has it’s grand opening with Governor Sebelius, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and the High School marching band. Greensburg finally gets it’s grocery store and Mary Merhoff’s kids finally get popsicles cause they won’t melt before they get home.

….. and Steve Hewitt is staying in Greensburg. Lucky town.

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No Responses to “Greensburg – One Step Forward”

  1. Says:

    Greensburg – One Step Forward | Forced Green…

    Greensburg, Kansas continues its efforts in rebuilding their town green!…

  2. Wenko Says:

    great effort! addin you to my faves…



  3. LadyGrace Says:

    Its good to see a whole town come together like that to help each other out when in need.

    LadyGraces last blog post..Going crazy!

  4. wilson Says:

    Linda, no other place better than the “Home sweet home”. I’m sure that the Greensburg’s citizens will be able to get back their life very soon…

    wilsons last blog post..Low Sugar Diet Can Really Prevent Diabetes?

  5. spygrrl Says:

    Girl…. i love visiting your blog. Always inspiring.

  6. Sen and Qi Says:

    We need more of this community spirit and not only in times of Disaster but all the time. Great work and thanks for popping by my blog. If Angel hadn’t told me about Linkbucks I wouldn’t have known so sometimes it is good to write about stuff even if it is uncomfortable sometimes. Thanks for beign a good friend too.

  7. Sadie Says:

    That’s so awesome. It’s really great to see them coming together like that. I love to hear that the “American spirit” hasn’t died.

    Sadies last blog post..Swine Flu

  8. Linda Says:

    Hi Wenko … thanks!

    Hi LadyGrace … The folks of Greensburg are great.

    Hi Wilson … Yes they will and are!

  9. Linda Says:

    Hi Spygrrl … Thank you and keep on coming back! 🙂

    Hi Qi … I Agree that we need more community spirit. You are welcome and thanks to you as well!

    Hi Sadie … The American spirit is alive and well!

  10. Barbara Says:

    What an inspiration. They are doing a great job, and setting a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when it’s a team effort!

    Barbaras last blog post..Facts On Ladybugs

  11. corrin Says:

    It takes a while, but it seems like these towns always come back together in the end.

    corrins last blog post..Weekend Getaway – Balmoral Park

  12. Linda Says:

    Hi Corrin … Yes it does. Greensburg is anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour away from other towns in the area. Thus building materials take a while to get there and if they forget anything, it is a minimum of an hour roundtrip.

  13. Karen Says:

    Greensburg restores my faith in mankind.

  14. Linda Says:

    Hi Karen … Hang on, got another post coming up about our friends in Greensburg.

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