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February 28, 2013

A year later....Holton is rebuilding

Wanda English Burnett

The above left photo shows the field now cleaned with just one of the eight new homes that are being built in the town after the tornado left the devastation in that same field shown in the above right photo, which also showcases the Lowell Jones property that was completely demolished from the twister. Lowell and his wife, Marlene, were not home at the time, which is what possibly saved their lives.

In the photo to the left, a group, Brethern Disaster Ministries from Pennsylvania, swooped in on their first day at work this week and finished this roof before the rain came in on Tuesday. They will have groups rotating in and out and helping the construction team for the next several months.

The tornado that ripped trees up by their roots, shattered homes, and claimed lives in the Town of Holton on March 2, 2012, did not take away the spirit of those who still live there.

The loss of now three lives can never be minimized and those lives will forever be remembered in the hearts of those who knew them. They are: Ronnie Pickett, Victor Armando Hernandez Carranza and Ted Tolbert, who died 11 months after the tornado of injuries he received.

"I never knew what lonely was," Pickett's widow, Sheryle told The Versailles Republican last week as tears ran down her face as she reflected on the past year. She shared her husband with his many passions that of serving his community through various venues such as being a volunteer firefighter, rescue worker and more. She was with him as much as possible even through those times volunteering herself to "help him out." She said she would complain about being lonely then, but, now she knows what it truly is like.

Lost in the tornado along with Pickett were two little dachshund rescue dogs, belonging to Sheryle. Ronnie's dog, Bear, somehow survived the ordeal and was found several houses away, sore, and matted, but alive.

Sheryle has finally been able to adopt a new rescue dachshund, Noelle, and as she explains it, "she has a true dog's life!"

When people talk about "picking up the pieces" of ones life, Sheryle never dreamed she would be literally doing so. There were things found in the field where the tornado tore through that mean the world to her such as pearls given to her by her late husband.

The other two deaths were also from being on that same stretch of Versailles Street in Holton. Many in the town had taken shelter in the Holton Christian Church basement, which is all that saved their lives. "We wouldn't be here now," Vicky Patrick told The Versailles Republican the day after the tornado came through. Evidence was seen when their home's walls were stripped, baring their belongings, what was left of them, for the world to see.

But, the people of Holton are resilient. They are strong and with the help of "hundreds, even thousands" of volunteers according to Pastor Bob McCreary, they are picking up the pieces, adding some new ones, and getting on with their lives.

On Monday of this week before the rains came down, a group from the Brethern Disaster Ministries out of Pennsylvania, were frantically nailing down the roof on one of the eight homes that are being built for the people at Holton.

According to Darin Kroger, construction manager for the Holton Long Term Recovery Group, eight homes have been donated through Crossroads Missions, out of Louisville, KY. Their motto is Help Build Hope.

Hope is something that gets thin when waiting for a place to live, but the eight displaced families will be getting a brand new home when it's all said and done.

While the wall kits of the homes were donated and brought in on semis, the labor was and is needed to construct the homes. "We have had about 95% volunteer labor," Kroger noted. He said of course grant money and donations have covered materials and that small percentage of skilled labor they couldn't get donated.

Each day that the weather cooperates, you can see progress in the town. Kroger said there are multiple smaller projects where repairs are being done throughout the town. He noted that the Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and Mary McCarty in particular, have been a big boost to those in need in Holton.

Volunteers have been local, such as the Cavehill Church of God, who took one complete home as their project and are working toward getting it turn-key finished under the direction of local contractor, Greg Fisk. (See more about this group in a related article in today's paper). But, volunteers have come from as far away as Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, and now Pennsylvania. Workers are still needed for both skilled and unskilled jobs. Those interested in helping get people back in a home can call 689-1300.

Agencies whisked into town the weekend and week after the deadly twister. They were emergency disaster agencies, who did the job they are designed to do, and then they left as they should have. Then the reality set in. Holton residents were still in dire need. This is the job now of the Holton Long Term Recovery Group, where a multitude of agencies help out. It is an amazing and complicated process, but the end result will see lots of smiles when homes are completed.

Kroger said he "hopes" to see these projects well underway and even completed by July of this year. What people don't realize when rebuilding is in progress, there are many variables that can slow and sometimes even halt, the process. But, Kroger remains hopeful and extremely grateful to the many groups who have come through to help out. "People have installed electric, built cabinets, given money, donated time, there's no way to list them all," he noted.

Cynthia Melton, who is the case manager for the Holton Long Term Recovery Group, agreed with Kroger, saying all the churches and people who have, and continue, to bring in food has just been overwhelming. "It's really something," she noted.

Over 100 cases (paperwork files) of people having storm damage have been opened through the Long Term Recovery Group. Others had insurance, and for the most part, those claims have been settled, allowing people to rebuild more quickly than some who did not have insurance. On the other hand, there are cases of claims that the homeowner's insurance has not been forthcoming and one particular home is situated on the east end of town. A big tarp on one side of the Kenny Beeman home says Erie Insurance one year later???

Friends had to help him recently put another tarp on it when the original one they had was torn up in high winds that came through. Holton residents pitch in to help each other with many being longtime friends who even went to the school together that was finally completely demolished due to the tornado.

Possible town funding cut discussed at Sunman mtg.

Cindy Ward
Staff Writer

At the Sunman Town Board meeting Thursday, February 21 a letter was submitted from Ray Baker Gibson urging council members to individually respond to legislators via email or phone to vote down Senate Bill 528.

Gibson said if this bill is passed, it could eliminate admissions tax and supplemental insurance tax, causing local communities to receive less money overall and revenue sharing agreements will no longer be effective. This bill could potentially impact the Rising Sun Regional grants program.

Mark Horstman, county council member, was in attendance at the meeting to reiterate how important it is to contact these legislators, as this will have an impact on EMS funding, as well.

Present at the meeting were Wayne Jenner, president; Kris Schneider, clerk-treasurer; Harvey Dobson and Jared Wolf, board members; Bill Dramann, town marshal; and Terry Knueven, utility director. Also in attendance was Town Attorney Amy Streator.

Schneider reported that the public hearing to discuss the clearance grant with the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) will be at 3 p.m., Wednesday, March 13. The town is working with the regional planning commission to try to remove the old school building.

The Ripley County Area Planning Commission says the town must adopt an ordinance concerning flood hazards within the Town of Sunman, as well as adopt a resolution to participate in the National Flood insurance program. A motion was made to ordain and adopt the resolution and met with unanimous approval. Ordinance number 2013-02 and resolution number 2013-01 were assigned.

Schneider brought up the discussion of putting together a town website. She said the website would be great to post ordinances, minutes from council meetings, etc. Wolf said he thought it was a great idea and offered to speak with someone he knows who could maintain the site for them.

Knueven reported that the old floor tile in the town hall basement has been removed and he is in the process of obtaining quotes for carpeting. The issue was due to a water problem in the basement. He had one quote from Pulskamps for $1,453.00. This amount includes the cost of adhesive and installation.

Wolf suggested getting carpet squares, as they would be easier to replace in the event of another leak. All agreed that commercial grade carpet would be best and the amount should not exceed $2,000.00.

In an effort to control the flow of storm water, Knueven said that Concepts Industrial plans to create a retention pond on the east side of its property and change to a 15-inch tile to slow the water. This will cause all of the flow to drain under Highway 101 and into Hogan Creek. Sunman town resident, RuthRiehle, expressed her concerns about water possibly draining on to her property and requested a copy of the drainage plans for the business. Council assured her that her property would not be affected.

Knueven reported that Ortman should begin work on Well No. 5 by the end of February. He also presented council with two quotes for Wellhead Phase II. The first one was with Sky Schelle for $2,500.00. The other was from Alliance of Indiana Rural Water for $4,000.00. Council unanimously agreed to hire Sky Schelle to perform the work.

Dramann presented the monthly report for the Sunman Police Department. It included: four VIN checks; 22 traffic stops; 13 agency assists; two investigations; 11 citizen complaints; two fight calls; one noise complaint; two charges filed; two criminal arrests; one warrant service; three dog complaints; one civil process; one gun permit; three suspended vehicles; three lockouts; one parking warning; one criminal mischief; two accident investigations; seven training programs; one theft report; three business alarms; two persons incarcerated; one trespassing; three 10-46 vehicles; eight meetings; one callout; and 84 reserve hours donated.

He commended reserve officers for all of the work that they do. Dramann also reported that the Town of Milan is looking into selling its 2005 Ford Explorer and have offered it to Sunman for $4,000.00. He said that the vehicle will include all equipment, with the exception of the radios and has 131,000 miles on it. He said the Explorer will need new tires and there may be issues with the air conditioning.

Council members asked Dramann to have someone check to see what the cost would be to repair the a/c prior to deciding to purchase.

Being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 7:05 p.m. The next meeting of the Sunman Town Council will be at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 21, at the Sunman Town Hall.

To read these and more articles pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican at your local store or subscribe by clicking on the link above or by calling 812-689-6364.
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