The Bay Voice Wednesday July 9, 2008
Michigan company responds to call for flooding help
Jarvis still working to cleanup Cedar RapidsÂ
By Kimberly Scherer,
Voice Staff Reporter
Kathy Vosburg’s heart went out to the people of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when they suffered through the recent flooding.
The Macomb County commissioner immediately thought of her friend, Linda Langston, who lives in the area. Langston is a member of the Linn Countys Board of Supervisors, similar to Michigans county commissioners.
I waited a couple of days, I knew that she would be busy, the Chesterfield Township resident said of calling Langston.
When Vosburg did call, she wanted to know what she could do to help. Langston told her what they needed was help with the disaster cleanup. Vosburg knew just who to call for help Jarvis Construction.
So, with a mission to help restore the flood-ravaged city, the local company stepped up and quickly responded with dozens of employees and emergency vehicles in tow.
“(Langston) said they were in total devastation,” Bill Jarvis, president of Jarvis Emergency Services, who spoke with Langston to see what they needed, said.
Not a moment was wasted in sending help to the flooded Cedar Rapids.
Jarvis learned June 13 of the need for help ad flew to the area the very next day. Because of the flooding, Army tanks and trucks had to take them through the city. Jarvis said not even an Army Hummer was capable of driving through the deep floodwaters. At some points, they were able to get out and walk through the flooding to assess the damage.
“We wore waders up to our necks,” he said.
The cleanup begins
Jarvis said equipment and employees from both their Michigan and Florida locations came to assist. Luckily, he said they go to the area early enough to secure a hotel only 10 miles from the devastated area; assistance workers that came later are in hotels as far as an hour away.
Of the 24 county and city buildings they are working on, many had between eight and 10 feet of water inside. Jarvis said the water level was only inches from the ceiling. The basements were filled with water, mud and sewage. Jarvis said they hired a moving company to take everything out of the building’s higher floors, because soon mold would start to grow.
“It took five days to pump out the water, and even then, we would come back the next day and find another eight inches had accumulated,” he said. We’re still pumping out the youth home. IT still comes up because of the water table.
Complicating things was the need for electricity to pump out the water, something Cedar Rapids didn’t have. Because the buildings generators were submerged under water, Jarvis said they brought in their own power to power the pumps.
The giant generators, housed in semi trucks, weren’t enough for the big job, so Jarvis said the company spent $2 million on more generators for this job. The good thing, Jarvis said, is that when they are finished in Cedar Rapids, the generators will be returning to Michigan where they can be used again for other jobs.
While furniture and other items from the upper floors of the buildings were taken off to be used by county and city workers at another location, the items from the lower floors were taken to large tents set up by FEMA, where Jarvis began photographing it all and began the document recovery work of the things that had been under water. Jarvis said he has been working alongside FEMA during the cleanup.
Jarvis said Cedar Rapids is similar to Mount Clemens. Just like Mount Clemens is home to Many of Macomb County’s government buildings, Cedar Rapids is home to Linn County’s government offices, the sheriffs department and jail and others. Another similarity eerie similarity is the rivers that snake through both cities. Mount Clemens has the Clinton River and Cedar Rapids has the now swollen Cedar River.
Jarvis said if Michigan ever has a disaster like the one they are working on, they will be well-equipped to step in and clean up.
Months to go
Jarvis said they now have about 20 semi trailers in Cedar Rapids, some of which house the giant generators. He said they have another 60 vehicles there from Michigan and Florida. As for personnel, they have an army of 1,500 workers also including subcontractors they hired from other areas, like Chicago.
“The crews will be there for a few months,” Jarvis said of the cleanup.
Everything needs to be dried out, scrubbed down and deodorized. Debris has to be removed, and in some cases, selective demolition is needed in areas damaged beyond repair.
The price tag will certainly be a hefty one when the cleanup is all said and done. Jarvis said that FEMA is picking up 75percent of the costs. The state is helping out with the costs as well.
“85 percent is recoverable,” Jarvis said of the county and city’s costs.
While Jarvis said this is one of the biggest jobs his company has come to the aid of, the emergency services team has also helped out with cleanup needed after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.