Last updated: August 24. 2013 11:20AM - 37 Views

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OTTAWA — Because of numerous volunteers, neighbors, family members and friends rallying together to work in her Locust Street house, Lydella Agner was able to return to her home just in time for Christmas this year.However, with much work remaining to be completed, she said, Christmas still won’t be quite the same this year. She only hopes for peace and quiet.Until Saturday, Agner, 88, had been displaced since the flood nearly four months ago.Like many in her neighborhood, and around town, she said her home was ruined by the flood. As a result, she had to pack up what she could and temporarily locate to Toledo, to live with a friend.“We had to start from scratch,” Agner said Sunday afternoon, after returning to her place. “They did everything — new wiring, new plumbing — everything.”This past weekend, she said, she was thrilled to return home. She said she’s grateful for all the help and she feels fortunate.Terri Samuelson, a caseworker for the Putnam County Long Term Recovery Task Force, said Agner’s situation is one of a few “happy stories” this Christmas involving the flood.“The community is really pulling together and helping each other,” Samuelson said. “This is just one example. … We had people from Michigan and from all over helping her. Some of them were flooded out of their own homes.”Agner realizes this and said she hopes others get the help they need.“There are a lot of other people who are worse off than I am,” she said. “I am very fortunate to be back in. … The people who helped were wonderful. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to get in before Christmas.”While Agner’s story is a positive one, Samuelson said not everyone is so fortunate.She said the task force continues to deal with a variety of issues as residents continue to recover from the flood.Christmas this year, she said, was not the same for many. However, many still had a Christmas because of the community.“The community is pulling together and being very generous,” Samuelson said. “Volunteers are not only working in people’s homes, they are helping with bills and doing other things to help for Christmas, whether it’s gas cards or furniture being donated.”Although she does not have an exact number, Samuelson said maybe hundreds of people are still displaced, and some could be displaced for one or two years.She said the task force has 125 cases open, each case representing a household with residents displaced in some way.“That number continues to increase because people are still deciding what they want to do and they’re working with their insurance companies,” Samuelson said. “Some of them are still waiting on mitigation information from the village on whether the village is going to buy their homes or not.”Samuelson said many have not decided whether to tear their homes down and rebuild on their property, try to renovate their home, or do something else.“People continue to come in, needing some type of assistance,” she said. “Based off the 125 cases, there could be hundreds of people displaced. Some of those houses, there could be four or five or six people displaced. Or, there could be one or two people.”By the end of November, officials from the task force reported, the flood relief fund grew to about $214,091. About one-third of those funds have been distributed while the number of volunteers has decreased. Samuelson said the need for volunteers, including skilled volunteers, is still great because the number of cases increase each day.To determine the remaining needs of flood victims, the task force invited the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee to survey damages in January. From the information the committee obtains, the group will prioritize and sort victims according to needs while providing cost estimates.Officials from the village of Ottawa said the village has issued only one-third of the building permits they need to issue. They said 309 houses were inspected in the “A Zone,” the zone the village regulates because it’s at the most risk of flooding. They need permits on all of those except for the 137 houses in which residents obtained them.Barb Brickner, the clerk/treasurer for Ottawa, said the village needs to get the rest of those permits to stay in compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program. She said the cost is waived and permits are free. By staying in compliance with the program, she said, residents will get their flood insurance premiums at a better price.Brickner said, there are only four homes in town that have been elevated and one more that has applied to be elevated.“We have five that are demolished and are going to be or have been rebuilt,” Brickner said. “About eight are being demolished and don’t have any immediate plans to rebuild.”Brickner said it could be years before all property owners have recovered.Meanwhile, some residents are ready to make repairs but are struggling with their insurance.Frank Doud, of Ottawa, lives on state Route 15 near state Route 108. He said he’s never been treated as poorly as he is being treated now by his insurance companies.Doud owns 5.5 acres of land and a 3,600-square-foot ranch. The basement was totally destroyed and between eight and 10 inches of floodwater went into his home, he said.“I basically gutted the entire house myself,” Doud said. “I’ve spent more than $100,000 on repairs, with insurance money.”Doud said he has flood and homeowners insurance.“They wouldn’t cover repairs to the cracks in my basement,” he said. “The engineer who inspected it said it was due to clay swelling up from moisture. There’s no clay within 12 feet of these walls.”Doud said the Federal Emergency Management Agency can’t help him until the insurance companies settle.He hoped to get carpeting in before Christmas but did not“My boys are living in the garage,” he said. “Me, my wife and daughter are living in a camper behind the barn. … It will be mid-February until we’re back in. That’s when we’ll have the house completely livable.”However, he said, his insurance still is not helping and they’re withholding the report from their inspector.“My insurance people put their hands up and said it’s out of their hands,” Doud said. “Why can’t they give me a copy of the report? What are they hiding? I just want what’s broken fixed. … My insurance broker wouldn’t answer my calls for three weeks. … You would think my insurance broker would at least stick up for me. He’s just saying, ‘Oh, well, there’s nothing I can do.’”And, as he continues to pay for things on his own, Doud said he and his wife are depressed the carpet didn’t get in on time.“We just can’t keep shelling out the money,” he said. “I need these insurance companies to wake up and smell the coffee. I am just asking for what’s broke to be fixed. I am not asking for anything else. … The only good thing is I lost 50 pounds out of stress. … We’re a little depressed right now.”Village, county continue recovery Jack Williams, Ottawa’s municipal director, said the village has an estimated loss of around $6 million.“Recoverable costs are going to be between a half-million and a million [dollars] from federal and state sources,” Williams said. “We’re still running on temporary facilities at this point.”He said that is not limited to buildings because it includes streets and sewers. Additionally, Williams said the wastewater plant has a tremendous amount of damage.To make repairs, he said, the village is still waiting for approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA, he said, has to see the damage.He said it could be spring or summer before some of the repairs are made and other repairs and work might not get done until up to five years from now.In an around the county, like the village, there’s still much that needs to be done.Putnam County Commissioner Bob Riepenhoff said the county received a U.S. Department of Labor grant recently to remove leaning and fallen trees and logjams in and around the Blanchard River and its tributaries for two reasons: One, allow the river to move water through without things blocking it; and two, to hire workers who have not been employed for six months or more.He said the former Ohio State University Extension Office along Second Street is going to be sold and the county is going to explore options for a new location. Although they are still evaluating the need for the entity, he said, repairs are still being made to the economic development office.The board of elections office, he said, has been cleaned out and repaired and workers should be able to return in a few weeks at most.“Overall, I would say we’re about half way up the mountain,” Riepenhoff said. “We’re not at the top, if that gives you some idea. … However, everybody has a place.”

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