June 19, 2008

Community comes together to save water plant

A cross-section of the Oskaloosa community gathers to save the city water plant from rising flood waters from the South Skunk River

OSKALOOSA — A cross-section of the Mahaska community — doctors, college administrators, Red Cross volunteers, city employees and common workers — joined as one Thursday morning to help build sandbag levies to protect the Oskaloosa water works from flood waters.

Mahaska County Emergency Management Coordinator Jamey Robinson assembled volunteers at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to begin filling sandbags to build a protective wall around the northside of the water works, near the rising South Skunk River.

The effort began with nine or 10 volunteers at 8 a.m. and the group grew to about 80 as people arrived at the scene to help.

Robinson said there were police officers, firefighters, New Sharon city employees on scene. Then, numerous businesses sent people to help. Other businesses donated items like work gloves, food and water for the workers.

The volunteers had their work cut out for them. Robinson said the group filled about 3,000 sandbags.

Volunteer Jennifer Coon, of Oskaloosa, took a quick break from work as rain began to fall around 10 a.m.

“It’s rained, but it’s better than 100-degree weather, “ she said.

Trent Kerr, of Oskaloosa, decided to pitch in and help at the water works site. He arrived there around 8 a.m.

“When we first started, it let off, but the last half hour, there was rain and thunder,” he said.

Kerr was adamant about his motivation to help at the site.

“Save the water plant. … I’ve got to drink water,” he said. “My brother called around 7 o’clock and said to come down.”

Kerr’s job was to finish the sandbag process.

“I ran a twister. I tied bags up,” he said.

Kerr said he’d help out again if it’s needed.

Bruce Spahr, of Oskaloosa, took time off from work to help at the water works. He’s the Emergency Room director at Mahaska Hospital.

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