Much of Tuesday night’s Winchester Board of Commissioners meeting centered around the devastation in Kentucky communities following the tornadoes last Friday, and how people of Winchester should help.
Mayor Ed Burtner proclaimed March as American Red Cross Month, and following the reading, the entire commission voted to adopt it. Normally, commissioners do not vote on proclamations, but because of recent events, they thought it appropriate to voice their support as a whole.
“The horrific events that occurred this past week ... have demonstrated once more that we are at the mercy of the awesome power of the Almighty,” Burtner said. “And when those kinds of events occur, we have to have people who are willing to volunteer their time, their assets, their resources, to help rebuild, to help ease the pain, the agony of the moment.”
Gary Epperson, director of the Winchester-Clark County Emergency Management Office, spoke before commissioners and urged the community to take their donated items to the Rock Ministries warehouse on Hud Road instead of directly to affected areas.
“There is so much stuff that has come into those counties that they have no place to put it. They don’t have the people to sort them. It’s overwhelming their resources and their personnel down there to deal with all this stuff,” Epperson said.
Robert Gayheart, Clark County coroner and organizer of Rock Ministries, will organize and store collected goods at the warehouse and send them to counties in need once they are ready to receive more goods.
“This enables a whole lot cleaner delivery of items already sorted,” Epperson said. “ ... clothes, for example, we had bags of just all kinds of different sized clothes, you know, winter clothes, summer clothes, you name it. Unfortunately, probably most of the clothes (that have been delivered to the affected areas) will wind up going in the Dumpster.”
Epperson also urged community members not to self-deploy to the areas.
“That is not the way we self-manage an incident like that, we want to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that everything’s well-coordinated, and that’s what makes it a successful outcome for an event like that,” he said. “It’s a humongous event, we have a lot of professional relief organizations out there that know what they’re doing, they do this thing every day.”
Monetary donations, he said, are “really important,” too, and people can go to http://kyem.ky.gov/donationsvolunteers, to donate cash to the disaster victims.
Winchester Fire-EMS Chief Eric Hunter gave a presentation of photos taken Saturday in Morgan County by department personnel who went to help. Today, personnel will return to help with debris removal.
“We did go into West Liberty on our way through, both in the standpoint of offering our services but also from the standpoint of education for our guys; they’ve never seen this,” Hunter said.
Burtner said the Winchester Police Department loaned the West Liberty Police Department two cruisers that were not specifically assigned to local officers, because eight of West Liberty’s cruisers were totaled.
Commissioners voted to approve that action Tuesday night.
Twenty-seven Kentucky counties have declared states of emergency, 48 counties have reported damage and three cities have independently declared states of emergency, Epperson said. Also, 375 members of the National Guard are currently mobilized to assist counties, he said.
To make a donation to Rock Ministries, contact Gayheart at 595-5340 or Rock Ministries volunteer Walter Hunt at 749-9160. For online assistance to locate loved ones, visit http://kyem.ky.gov/missingperson.
The Kentucky Emergency Management office also has started a volunteer coordination website, http://kyem.ky.gov/recovery/pages/volunteerCoordination.aspx.
In other business, the commission:
— voted to approve an order designating the new Clark Regional Medical Center address as 1 Hospital Drive.
— deferred voting on an order to authorize a website redesign and the implementation of a Web content management system to CivicPlus.
Contact Katie Perkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter, @TheSunKatie.