Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

March 12, 2014

Spring cleaning

City starts push to clear up remaining tornado damage

It has been almost four months since the Nov. 17 tornadoes demolished sections of the city, and Kokomo city officials are expecting a bit of spring cleaning to occur.

This week, the city’s code enforcement section began sending out letters to the owners of vacant, tornado-damaged structures, asking them to begin the process of either removing or rebuilding.

“Our plan is to start this week to really get aggressive on people who haven’t started,” Deputy Fire Chief Nick Glover, who heads up code enforcement, said Monday. “We’re pushing them to make a decision.”

It hasn’t been an easy time for many property owners, particularly owners who are still wrangling with insurance adjusters.

Some businesses, like JC Penney, are almost ready to reopen, with the doors expected to swing wide either this coming Monday or the next.

Store manager Jerry Barth said the company had planned to close the store this year for a remodel, but after the tornado hit, the necessity of getting the store opened again took precedence.

“Based on the number of phone calls and people stopping by to check on us, I’d say our customers are very anxious for us to reopen,” Barth said, adding more than 90 percent of his staff will be coming back to work.

Kyle Rayl, president of the Soupley’s Liquors chain, said insurance negotiations are the main reason the company’s store at the corner of Lafountain Street and Lincoln Road hasn’t been touched since the tornado.

“We’re just waiting to settle with the insurance company so we can start rebuilding,” Rayl said. “We’re still talking to our insurers, but we should make some progress in the next couple of months.”

On East Hoffer Street, where one of the two tornadoes to hit Kokomo damaged more than a dozen businesses, the different stages of repair are most obvious.

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