Governor Urges Long Range Planning For Tornado Recovery
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – Three weeks after the tornadoes caused tens of millions of dollars in damage in Massachusetts and disrupted thousands of lives, Governor Deval Patrick is urging community leaders to begin planning for the long term recovery. The governor spoke at a tornado recovery forum held in Springfield's Basketball Hall of Fame. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
Speaking to a gathering of more than 250 people, Governor Deval Patrick said the tragedy presents a unique opportunity to rebuild communities better than before.
Given the venue , the Basketball Hall of Fame, there was a lot of talk of teamwork and tenacity. State officials present,which in addition to the governor, included the lieutenant governor, the state treasurer, two cabinet secretaries and several agency heads vowed to do their part. They stressed the state was all in to rebuild public infrastructure, parks and schools.
Money may not be that big an obstacle. Officials point out that insurance will cover most of the damage to private homes and commercial structures. There are federal programs to make up private insurance gaps. State officials have already looked to funds authorized for existing programs and created priorities for tornado victims. One hundred thousand dollars from a rebate program to encourage the purchase of energy efficient appliances has been set aside.
Gov Patrick vowed there would be no permanent dislocations because of the storm..
The governor also said the rebuilding would occur quickly. But others cautioned that progress will be measured in years..not months. As anxious as people may be to get shovels in the ground, the state's Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Gregory Bialecki, says there has to be thoughtful planning
Officials continue to tally damage from the storms. The city of Springfield's interim Chief Development Officer, Christopher Moskel, said tornado damage stretched more than six miles through the city. 8 of 17 neighborhoods were affected, more than 200 buildings condemned, 75 hundred mature trees were lost forever changing the landscape. Moskel said the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, a quasi public agency, and DevelopSpringfield, a private non-profit, have been tapped to lead the rebuilding effort. He said the city plans to hire a consultant, with experience in disaster recovery.
Governor Patrick signed an supplemental budget Tuesday that included 15 million dollars for emergency tornado expenses.