Maddox organizes Rebuild Tuscaloosa Task Force

William Evans

As the immediate needs of citizens weigh on the minds of city officials, the question of how to rebuild Tuscaloosa in the wake of the storm has become an equally urgent issue to address.

Mayor Walt Maddox issued an executive order to form a Rebuild Tuscaloosa Task Force that will survey the infrastructure, planning and construction needs of the damaged areas in the city.

“It’s important that when we rebuild this city, we do so in such a way that honors the 41 people who died on April 27th,” Maddox said. “We cannot let their deaths be in vain. One of the ways we can honor them is to rebuild this city stronger than it was on the day of April 27th.”

John McConnell, department head of the city’s planning and developmental services, will appoint members from within the city government and in the community to constitute the Task Force.

A plan from the Task Force is projected to reach City Hall by August 1st of this year.

Maddox said he wants to focus on long-term construction rather than relying upon makeshift replacements to address housing shortages. He has prevented contractors from placing mobile homes on slats in the affected areas because of his focus on the long-term rather than the short-term.

“The construction that’s going to take place is going to be something that honors all of those that have been impacted by the tornado,” he said.

The number of confirmed missing persons has dropped to 25 with five of them being a level one status, meaning they were reported missing by people who had seen them within the past two weeks.

The number of confirmed fatalities has risen to 41 while the number of houses within the city without power has dropped to 100.

About 500 homes are without power in rural areas, said W. Hardy McCollum, Tuscaloosa County probate judge.

Volunteers need to be credentialed by registering through the volunteer registration center at the McAbee Activity Center on Loop Road. The facility will be active by this Saturday.

“Any volunteer that goes into a recovery zone has to be credentialed,” Maddox said. “It’s for the safety of the volunteer as debris removal including hazardous waste removal will start in these areas. We also will have utility companies doing major work in these areas and we want to coordinate the volunteers strategically so that we can have them in the most effective position.”

Search and rescue in the Holt area is expected to be completed by today, and search and rescue teams will continue their operations to the county line, said Ted Sexton, Tuscaloosa County sheriff.

Ground and air assets as well as cadaver dogs will continue to be the mainstays of the search and rescue effort, he said.

The National Guard has been instrumental in handing out supplies to citizens, Maddox said.

Ready-to-eat meals, cases of water, cases of tarps and bags of ice have been distributed to thousands of citizens with the National Guard’s assistance.

“We could not do that without the National Guard,” Maddox said. “The National Guard has been absolutely essential to us not only in establishing law and order but also in ensuring that we get the needed supplies out to our citizens in need.”