Friday, June 13, 2008

Johnson County Preps for Evacuations, Road Closings, Office Move

Johnson County Preps for Evacuations, Road Closings, Office Move

County supervisors passed a mandatory evacuation notice at an emergency meeting Thursday night, and also considered contingencies for road closings and relocation of county offices as flood waters approach the county's Administration Building.

"It's a desperate situation, no doubt about it," Congressman Dave Loebsack told the meeting. Loebsack said Federal Emergency Management Agency director Dave Paulison will be in the area Friday.

"It's going to really hit transportation, specifically north and south," said county engineer Greg Parker. Shortly after the meeting, the Highway 965 bridge over the Iowa River closed. "There's a strong possibility the 380 bridge will be closed."

"There will be access in and out" of most areas, said Board assistant Mike Sullivan, "but there will be no direct routes for quite a while."

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said the first rural areas that may be evacuated would be the Cottage Reserve area at Lake MacBride and parts of Sand Road near Hills. While homes themselves may not be flooded, roads may be cut off. "Our first concern is the areas where we have only one way in and one way out" for emergency responders, he said.

If waters reach the projected levels by next week, Pulkrabek said, "it does potentially turn Hills into an island."

The county plans to maintain essential services even if the Administration Building is flooded, by relocating some staff and servers to other sites. "We're so close to the border line (of flood projections) we can't say. But before the water gets to the door, we become an island," said Facilities Manager David Kempf.

Kempf said the county jail has four feet of clearance from the expected high water mark, but the Ambulance building is near the edge. (If you're worried about me: my house is four feet higher than the jail. Though I'd feel better if I was back on top of the hill at the Bohemian Paradise of Gaslight Village...)

Recorder Kim Painter and Treasurer Tom Kriz said many of their services will be available on line, and Auditor Tom Slockett said payroll and accounts payable services would continue.

In one example of how law and nature can conflict, Kriz said there is no provision in state law to postpone a mandatory tax sale scheduled for Monday. If the Administration Building is closed. Kriz said the sale would be held at the courthouse, high on a hill.

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