MOORE — Moore police officers were honored Monday night at city hall for responding to Plaza Towers Elementary and saving lives following the May 20 tornado.
The honored police officers helped the schoolchildren, teachers and staff out of rubble barely recognizable as one of the city’s oldest elementary schools. Seven children died at the site. The officers received a standing ovation and were commended by Mayor Glenn Lewis and City Manager Stephen Eddy.
“You saw things you should not have to see,” Lewis said.
At the council meeting two weeks ago, Moore firefighters were recognized. First responders were vital in the wake of the deadly EF-5 tornado that ripped through the city. Moore has fought back, adapting the Oklahoma Strong motto as their own — Moore Strong.
Even the upcoming Moore War 5K will be dedicated in part to tornado recovery and has been temporarily renamed the Moore Strong 5K. It is set for Aug. 24, and there has been encouragement for police and fire to join the friendly spirit of the competition.
Also at Monday night’s Moore City Council meeting, Joplin Assistant City Manager Samuel Anselm and others from the Missouri city that experienced similar devastation from a tornado two years ago presented a banner from their city to send good wishes for recovery to Moore.
“We’re learning a lot from your response and how you’re handling it,” Joplin resident Jane Cage said.
Cage said Moore’s experience is valuable because this is the city’s second tornado. Moore was also hit May 3, 1999. Cage said she realized Joplin residents shouldn’t assume their city will never be hit again.
In regular city business, the Moore City Council approved a Fiscal Year 2013 budget supplement to the General Fund for $1 million and to the Special Revenue Fund for $6 million to address tornado expenses incurred prior to the FY 2013 end on June 30.
“These are end-of-year supplements that are primarily needed because of the May 20 storm,” Moore Finance Director Jim Corbett said. “The majority of this cost will be reimbursed either by the federal or the state government.”
While many of the large bills associated with recovery have not been paid yet, this supplement is needed primarily to deal with overtime costs associated with the tornado.
“Right now, cash is very, very tight. We haven’t received any reimbursements yet,” Corbett said.
Corbett expects reimbursements to start coming in soon. He said there will be additional budget supplements for the FY 2014 year, which started July 1.
The Moore Economic Development Authority also approved a budget supplement for the recently ended fiscal year in the amount of $10,000.
Economic Development Director Diedre Ebrey commended Moore’s commercial real estate community for its quick assistance in matching displaced tenants with temporary spaces. She said development interest in Moore is still strong.
Businesses are beginning to reopen. Ebrey said a temporary home for Norman Regional Health System in Moore will be opening soon. She said NRHS is committed to rebuilding a facility on the former site of Moore Medical Center that was destroyed in the tornado. While the health system is studying exactly what is needed to serve Moore, Ebrey said an emergency department is expected to be included in those future plans.
The former Moore Medical Center’s Emergency Department was a Level 3 trauma center and had 11 beds, 11 cardiac monitored rooms and an ultrasound.
Eddy said 112 homes will get official condemnation notices and will have until Aug. 15 to contact the city with plans for the property. The notice period is longer than usual and the city wants people to take care of their own property if possible.
Also, the last day for free pickup of debris will be Aug. 15. Any debris not at curbside by that date will have to be removed at the property owner’s expense, Eddy said.
In other city business, the council approved the purchase of 12 Ford Explorer SUV police interceptor vehicles from Bob Moore Ford at the state contract price for $354,000. Eddy said the vehicles will be paid for out of the Public Safety Sales Tax fund.
During public input, residents Leslie Bonebreak and Memory Taylor asked about curbside recycling. The recycling center will reopen in August, but the pair hopes Moore will follow Norman’s lead and bring curbside recycling to residents. Mayor Lewis voiced support but said people spoke against the added cost of recycling a few years back.
Bonebreak and Taylor said they believe there is an interest level for curbside recycling now, and they will rally residents to work toward that end with city leaders.
Aaron Sloan, a Moore resident and full-time member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard with the 45th Infantry Brigade, thanked city council members for Veterans Park.
He talked about the importance of the park to those who served in the military.
Sloan was formerly deployed to Afghanistan and lost friends there. He said the park was a tribute to their memory and a consolation to all who served and lost close friends.