Department of Public Works Facility Destroyed by Fire
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
I don’t want to be that clueless guy that the news media reporters always seek out that is willing to talk but most often has nothing or very little to add about the situation. Our able City Business Manager Lora Kalkofen and Police Chief Dan Evans have given on the spot and well informed interviews to the media and will provide additional factual updates as appropriate.
However, a little different perspective on the event may be interesting. Yesterday began early and was a long and challenging day for the City of White Cloud staff and Council members and one that will certainly add a couple of footnote in the City’s history. The City Council had a late evening meeting dealing with some significant and stressful business issues that required some well considered decision making. Those were made and our hope is that they will prove to be exceedingly beneficial to the residents of the City. For me it was home by around 9:45 and after the necessary small plate and beverage and quiet conversation it was time for the anticipated meeting with the latest detective thriller that was waiting on my night stand.
Around 12:30 AM we like many other City residents heard a series of explosions. What was that? Gunshots, fireworks, big truck or train accident? Listening a bit longer, the neighborhood dogs were quiet, no sirens, all quiet.
Then lights out and what felt like a few minutes later the phone rang with Lora telling that our DPW barn had caught fire and was a total loss. The typical questions, anyone hurt? Any other homes involved? then out the door to the fire site.
All things considered the City of White Cloud has had a really good year, a bit contentious and controversial as with all municipal governments but we were ending on a really good note. Now this, the scope and scale of the loss of our DPW barn is incredible. This was our City’s garage, our barn, the shed, the place where our DPW staff worked, where we keep the records and the tools and equipment that we needed to provide services for our residents. The inventory in that building had been built up over decades, all the hand, power, and special water service tools that resided in that cabinet or on that wall, the bits and pieces, the street equipment, the mowers, power lifts, the vehicles, the task list, the reminder notes stuck by the phone, the coffee pot, all gone.
There was a brief 2:00 AM strategy meeting at City Hall with Business Manager Lora Kalkofen, Chief Evans and former Mayor and DPW Supervisor Barnhard. Lora had already pulled insurance plans and she and Supervisor Barnhard were developing the first things first to do list. The challenges have just begun for our City Staff, working with the Insurance Agency, trying to build the loss inventory from receipts and memory, restocking, pricing replacement equipment and vehicles, preparing request for quotes, reviewing bids, new construction or relocating, endless decisions to be made all while managing normal City operations. We are resilient and resourceful in White Cloud, we will recover and we will find a way to provide basic services to the residents.