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Tornado talks takes center stage at meeting of Quorum Court

By Anita Tucker

atucket@arkansasnews.com

Much of the Van Buren County Quorum Court’s last meeting was spent talking about the April 10 tornado — the cost, the damage and the huge volunteer effort.

The Rescue Squad’s Brian Tatum said that within 90 minutes of the EF-2 tornado’s touchdown in Scotland a mobile command center had been set up.

He said the county doesn’t “wait for a handout” when disaster strikes. The Salvation Army said after a couple of days in town that they were going to leave because “you don’t need us here.” He said they served only 50 meals in the three areas that were hit.

That doesn’t mean the county didn’t want or need volunteers, however. Tatum said that the next day a center for staging was set up across the highway from the Courthouse Annex, in the parking lot of the Arkansas Grand Show Room. He said volunteers had to check in at the center and get a badge.

On April 13, 261 volunteers checked in at the center.

Tatum said many of those volunteers had been affected by past tornadoes. “We had a lot of volunteers from Vilonia,” he said. Four people were killed in a tornado in the Faulkner County town in 2011.

Sheriff Scott Bradley also praised the volunteers and response to the disaster. “Everybody worked together as a team. Everyone did their jobs. Unfortunately, we’ve done it so often everyone knows their job,” he said.

The final tally of houses damaged or destroyed in the county is 67, said Jeana Williams, Office of Emergency Management coordinator.

County Judge Roger Hooper said the cost to the county would be around $400,000. Of that, 30 percent will be reimbursed by the state, but the county was not declared a federal disaster, he said.

Also at the April 18 meeting the justices of the peace approved an ordinance taking the Office of Economic Development solely under its jurisdiction. The ordinance said that because Clinton was the only city that was contributing to the expense and economic development is important to the entire county, the office should be under the authority of the county judge.

The department’s coordinator will answer to the county judge and he will have authority to terminate, discipline, commend and evaluate the coordinator. Peter Giovannini of Morrilton has been coordinator since the office was created about four years ago.

Hooper appointed five JPs to a board to oversee the office. They are: James Reed, Gary Linn, Dell Holt, Dale James and Chuck Willard who will serve as chairman.

The ordinance was unanimously approved without any discussion.

The Quorum Court’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 16 at the Courthouse Annex in Clinton. The meeting is open to the public.

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