Regents Move to Rebuild Braille School in Vinton
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Board of Regents approved steps Thursday to rebuild the Iowa Braille and Sightsaving School in Vinton after a powerful windstorm last month ripped the roof off one of its main buildings and destroyed dozens of trees.
During a meeting at the University of Northern Iowa, the regents voted to give the school that provides educational services to students who are blind or visually impaired the power to waive routine building and purchasing processes to speed its recovery from the July 11 storm.
The storm, known as a derecho, sent straight-line winds of up to 100 miles per hour across the state, ripping up trees and power lines and tearing the roofs off farm buildings. Vinton, a city of 5,000 located about 30 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, was among the areas hardest hit.
A small number of the school's students and staff were on campus and about 140 AmeriCorps volunteers who work there took cover during the storm in a tunnel system that extends between buildings. No one was injured.
Superintendent Patrick Clancy said the storm caused significant damage to Old Main, which was originally constructed in 1865 and lost its roof and roof structure. He said a temporary roof has been installed to protect the building from the elements while school officials decide how to repair the building on a permanent basis.
He said the Cottage building that AmeriCorps leases for dormitory space sustained major interior damage after winds punctured the roof structure, causing a water line to break. Other buildings on campus suffered damage to roofs, windows, doors and siding.
The winds also cut off the top of mature trees that long lined the campus, shredding them in pieces and leaving their debris everywhere. Clancy said about 150 trees need to be removed because of damage and the campus will still be beautiful but will never look the same.
Clancy said the school expects to have its insurance cover some of the costs of the damage and rebuilding, and expects to get more details later this month. Gov. Terry Branstad has also asked for a presidential disaster declaration for several counties hit by the storm, which would make the projects eligible for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Thursday's action means the school won't have to go through a competitive bidding process for rebuilding projects and will instead be able to award construction contracts quicker to pre-qualified firms. Several other routine mandates relating to project planning and spending were also waived.
Clancy praised University of Iowa officials for helping with the school's emergency response and Iowa State University officials for helping plan the recovery projects.
What's On KCRG