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Officials meet with residents impacted by March flood

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – Homeowners affected by flooding earlier this year came face-to-face with city leaders Monday, May 13, at an informational meeting held at Sullivan Elementary School, where frustrations were high.

Several city leaders, including Mayor Eric Genrich, attended the meeting.

Community and Economic Development Director Kevin Vonck, said the meeting’s main objective was to discuss how the city responded to the flooding event and gather information on how to improve the city’s response for future emergency events.

“In hindsight, there are things we could have, should have done differently,” Vonck said. “We are here because we are interested in finding solutions. In order for us (to move forward) in (the) short term with emergency response and long term for the planning, development and infrastructure – we need to be able to go through and reflect and gather information from you, residents, in order to put things into action.”

Residents demanded answers, saying the city’s response was slow and ineffective and communication was non-existent during the flood.

“Right now we’re just talking about problems,” said Mikel Perry, property owner on Eliza Street. “I don’t want to relive the worst night of my life. We couldn’t get ahold of anyone. Nobody is talking about solutions, and I’d like solutions.”

During Monday’s meeting, the Green Bay Metro Fire Department presented a timeline of what happened through its perspective during the mid-March flooding.

Assistant Fire Chief Robert Goplin said the first 911 call was made at 4:02 a.m. March 15, from 1558 East Mason Street.

Many homeowners were frustrated that help didn’t come sooner – saying reports made earlier than 4:02 a.m. to the police department weren’t followed up on.

Police Chief Andrew Smith said he was unaware of reports made before the 4:02 a.m. call and committed to investigating the breakdown in communication.

Several properties sustained thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Some residents present at Monday’s meeting are still not back in their homes.

Lory Stoneburner, a property owner on Hartung Street, is living with her daughter in Denmark because her home remains condemned.

“My home sustained significant damage to its foundation, some of my basement walls started caving in,” she said.

Stoneburner said she hasn’t received any help from the city and was even charged hundreds of dollars after they installed plastic fencing around the damaged portions of her home.

“I got a bill for $811, I didn’t pay it – they will probably add it to my taxes,” Stoneburner said. “Talk about being hit while you’re down.”

During the meeting, Goplin highlighted some lessons the department learned, including the need for better enforcement at evacuation areas, better accountability of evacuees and the availability of a vehicle with high water capabilities.

Nearly 150 people living along or near the East River required rescuing by the fire department.

Genrich said a lot can be learned from the meeting by recognizing what was done well and what wasn’t.

“Definitely some concerns from residents, I think there was a fair amount of miscommunication in the community,” Genrich said.

As a short-term, temporary fix, Green Bay Fire Chief David Litton told residents to call 911 if flooding happens again.

“We understand that the neighborhood is frustrated,” Litton said. “We are gathering facts here. We know that not everything was perfect. I’m not afraid to admit that, but I’m also committed on fixing it.”

Any residents that were unable to attend Monday’s meeting and would like to comment are asked to contact Alderman Bill Galvin.

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