Wide range of ideas proposed for Joplin rebuilding

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | 12:40 p.m. CDT; updated 1:02 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 1, 2011

JOPLIN — A vision for what Joplin and Duquesne should look like after rebuilding from the devastating May 22 tornado has begun to emerge from comments gathered at two public hearings organized by an advisory team leading the rebuilding effort.

One of the meetings conducted by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team happened Tuesday. Some of the most popular ideas suggested were sidewalks, underground utilities, and walking and biking paths. Others suggested more public transportation, a shopping center and a memorial to the 159 people killed in the tornado, The Joplin Globe reported.

The advisory team, which includes business leaders, officials from both cities and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will consider the comments. Residents will be invited to a later meeting to discuss designating the top priorities, which will be relayed to city and school district officials.

About 200 people attended one of the meetings on Tuesday.

Suggestions included constructing neighborhoods in pods with a variety of housing types. Dog parks and green spaces or more neighborhood parks also were suggested by several residents. Others wanted access to medical care on the north side of the city.

Several people suggested that the school district build two high schools to replace the one that was destroyed in the tornado and build storm-safe school buildings, or buildings with storm shelters for 10 of the district's buildings that were destroyed or damaged.

"I think the turnout has been very good," said Rob O'Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, who leads the advisory team. "The committee felt that if there were 100 people at the first session, that would be good, and we are well over that. There are a great cross-section of ideas."

Steve Castaner, a long-term recovery planner for FEMA, said the public meetings give residents a way to communicate their priorities, which helps government officials determine how to use recovery funds.

Disagreements are likely and were evident on a board where comments related to "community vision" could be posted, the Globe reported. One resident said Joplin should just look like itself again. But another person favored looking to other cities for ideas, saying it was Joplin's chance to look to the future.

FEMA staff will organize the public comments and hold another public session in about three weeks to discuss them, agency spokesman John Mills said.

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Richard Saunders July 13, 2011 | 2:08 p.m.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the vast majority of the destroyed property private?

Perhaps the owners might like the liberty to rebuild their lives as they best see fit? Or is the City of Joplin going to go the "Eminent Domain" route and victimize these people even further?

Oh wait, there's disaster aid money involved, so the sharks will circle, looking for a feast.

(Report Comment)
mona rehmert July 13, 2011 | 2:30 p.m.

That was a little harsh Richard. There's nothing wrong with looking toward the future. Joplin residents deserve the right to change the way their city looks and public officials are holding meetings to get their opinions. People who donated money should be happy its being used the way the residents want. My concern is that the donated money won't be used to help the residents rebuild their city, but somehow lost in the political shuffle. Something good has to come out of this disaster.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 13, 2011 | 3:59 p.m.

Mona, I think you mean Joplin residents have the right to change the way their own private property looks, and offer suggestions on how public property might look. Not being at this meeting, we have to rely on the news account for what was discussed, but I would be leery of a grand revisioning scheme for the city as a whole if I lived there.

(Report Comment)

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