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FEMA Assessment Tempers St. Louis Cities' Tornado Clean-up Efforts

The city of Creve Coeur is among the many municipalities which have offered assistance in the wake of Friday's damaging storm.

The St. Louis County Municipal League has been coordinating cleanup efforts with the county by contacting and making visits to cities , and staying in contact with surrounding cities like Creve Coeur which may help out, its executive director said Tuesday.

But while work is underway in the areas hardest hit, the Municipal League isn't recruiting additional help until applications for funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are approved, executive director Tim Fischesser said.

"Everybody likes to go slow, until FEMA kind of opens the door," executive director Tim Fischesser said. He said St. Louis County is pursuing a FEMA-approved vendor that would help multiple cities by collecting debris.

But the need to go through a bidding process means that a vendor's work wouldn't likely begin until next week, he said. So the Municipal League requested initial help from nearby cities in an effort to clear enough debris to let residents get to their houses.

FEMA will conduct assessments of storm-hit cities Tuesday and Wednesday and will likely hold a conference with them to explain its findings, Fischesser said. Maryland Heights Patch documented the process .

Already, cities have provided assistance. Immediately after the storm, cities activated mutual aid agreements that enable multiple fire and police departments to work together. Additionally, public works crews have offered to help in storm-damaged cities.

Some examples of cooperation:

  • Hazelwood and Overland have assisted Berkeley in the area of public works.
  • Florissant has assisted Ferguson with public works.
  • Creve Coeur offered to help Bridgeton and Maryland Heights by providing chainsaws and other equipment. Those cities haven't responded to the offer because they have so far had the resources to meet their needs, Fischesser said.
  • Manchester also volunteered its resources.

Fischesser and the Municipal League's president, Glendale Mayor Rich Magee, contacted the county's Emergency Operations Center on Saturday and paid visits to affected cities that day and Monday.

Municipal League representatives also contacted unaffected cities, inviting them to adopt communities that experienced damage.

It's not the first time the Municipal League has acted as a go-between for cities and the county following natural disasters: It helped out after ice storms in both 2006 and 2008, Fischesser said.

He said non-government agencies also have provided help, pulling debris from private property to the curb so that it can be hauled away.

"It's a really nice, fairly organized effort," Fischesser said.

Tony Simpson, municipal contract manager for St. Louis County's public works department, could not immediately be reached for comment. Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch also could not immediately reach Derek Lohner, an area coordinator for the State Emergency Management Agency in St. Louis.

Fischesser said that Simpson has been working on the contract aspect of the cleanup and Lohner has been putting together damage assessments.

Meanwhile in St. Louis County, has instructed staff to identify properties damaged in the storm. Information posted to the website of the Pattonville School District states that Missouri law allows assessors to take properties deemed uninhabitable by a natural disaster off of tax rolls.

Representatives of the office will conduct field inspections, and property owners are asked to call the office about properties hit by the tornado, the information states. Those with affected residential property should call 314-615-4230. Those will affected commercial property should call 314-615-4968.

Notices will be sent out in mid-May and mid-June letting alerting owners of residential and commercial properties, respectively, about the reassessed value of their property in 2011 as compared to its value in 2009.

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