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Dave Olson, Published September 12 2007

City enters lull before demolition storm

NORTHWOOD, N.D. – Officials here thought the city’s landfill would last them another 15 years.

That was before Aug. 26.

Now it’s anyone’s guess whether the landfill will last them through the fall, especially as many Northwood residents gear up for demolition of structures damaged by the Aug. 26 tornado.

City Administrator Marcy Douglas said Tuesday initial tornado cleanup is winding down and she expects a lull before large-scale tearing down begins in October.

She said that’s when the city will once again need volunteers and material, mostly things like plywood, sheetrock and tar paper, items any building project can use.

The biggest question residents have these days is when they need a building permit, she said.

For new construction and demolition, they do, Douglas said.

For fixing windows, siding and shingles, they don’t, said Douglas, who learned some things herself Tuesday at a workshop state and federal officials held to let public entities and nonprofit groups know how to sign up for financial assistance.

Any such group in Grand Forks County can apply and officials urged them to do so quickly.

Organizations or towns seeking assistance should thoroughly document damage and costs, and create maps showing where destruction occurred, officials said.

They said taking photographs is also a good idea, and each specific site should get its own folder.

“It helps the project officer keep everything straight,” said Gary Schulz, public assistance specialist with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.

Recent estimates put Northwood’s private property damage at more than $50 million, Douglas said.

Damage to the city’s infrastructure could be $5 million more, she said.

Douglas said the federal government will cover 75 percent of eligible losses, while the state will cover 10 percent, leaving Northwood to handle the remaining 15 percent.

She said it’s unclear how the city will come up with its share.

The army of volunteers that descended on Northwood immediately after the tornado had largely withdrawn by Tuesday, but a few could be found.

Wes Kunz, a member of Northwood’s Ebenezer Lutheran Church, was helping orchestrate work at the church parsonage, home to Pastor Tim Johnson and his wife, Cindy. The parsonage lost windows, roofing and siding.

Kunz figured the house could be livable in a few months.

He’s not so sure about the church.

It suffered structural damage and its steeple will have to come down, he said.

Kunz said opinion varies among church members, but he’s come to his own conclusion.

“I don’t think we’ll be back in that church again.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555