Friday, May 2, 2008

Greensburg still ‘Ridin’ the storm out’

To be sure, Greensburg has taken tremendous strides since a nearly 2-mile-wide tornado dismantled 95 percent of the small town’s buildings one year ago, May 3.

More than 100 housing permits have been issues, and many environmentally friendly and energy efficient structures are going up every day, as highlighted this week by dozens of publications, documentary makers and the CBS morning show.

But there’s another side to this story.

Many former Greensburg residents have disagreed with how money has been spent and other decisions made since the tornado.

OOIDA members Larry Wingfield and Michael Terryn recently told me they’ve moved their families outside of town, citing Greensburg’s pricey construction expenses, which many blame on the town’s emphasis on green building.

Larry Wingfield, who’s in his 50s, told me he doesn’t want to start over.

“We’re not going to move back for the simple reason that it would be outrageously expensive for us to move back,” Larry told me. “I can understand saving energy, but not when it comes to hurting me in my pocketbook.”

(Commercial – be sure to check out our Greensburg coverage in the June edition of Land Line!)

Photographer Gregory Holmes is on the ground in Greensburg today, waking early enough to see “half the town” present at a 6 a.m. concert by REO Speedwagon.

News crews and trucks loaded with construction materials have clogged the city’s streets, most of which still lack street signs, Greg told me. President Bush’s Saturday arrival brought additional visitors.

“The town is crawling with black Ford Explorers,” he said.

While Greensburg residents are friendly, many have said they’ve grown a little tiresome of being repeatedly asked the same questions, and many aren’t as excited about being a test lab for America’s greenest city as you’d think after watching the above CBS clips.

A rectangular art museum is being constructed, and some new homes feature high-density Styrofoam energy-efficient walls.

The difference between what I’m hearing from residents and what I’m seeing televised brought to mind the “reality” of ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition, where television personalities are whisked between multiple building sites and contractors are asked to redo certain construction so cameras can film a new angle.

I’m curious to see how this works out, and to see what a small town once famous for its ties to farming and trucking will look like in five to 10 years, and whether it’s still “Ridin’ the storm out.”