TODDVILLE, Iowa — The high winds that rolled through Eastern Iowa earlier this week left a mess of downed trees and debris in the unincorporated Linn County community of Toddville. But things got a little better for residents on this July Fourth holiday with the help of volunteer contractors who tackled the mess for free on Friday.
Linn County officials had told residents the best they could do was bring in county road crews beginning July 21st to haul away landscape debris left curbside. Residents weren’t happy because that would have meant living with a mess for three more weeks, or paying for private contractors. That’s when a construction company from Palo stepped in with an offer to county leaders and the community. Ralston Construction promised to bring in six pieces of heavy equipment and volunteer workers to haul away the trees and branches.
To say residents were happy to see the workers Friday morning was a bit of an understatement. One volunteer, Matt Swehla, said he got a particularly warm welcome.
“A lot of people were very, very happy. I had one lady give me a hug a little bit ago,” Swehla said.
With a glance around Toddville, it’s easy to grasp why. So many people had damaged trees there literally wasn’t any space along many streets to pile more debris.
Ralston Construction owner Mark Ralston said he did some cleanup for free in Palo right after the storm Monday. But as he drove through Toddville a few days later, he saw the mess and struggle here. He asked his employees if any would give a half day on the holiday to help out the community and run the equipment.
“I asked the guys. I needed six guys because we had four trucks and two end loaders. It only took a couple of seconds and everybody responded and wanted to help,” Ralston said.
Ralston wouldn’t say how much the donated equipment would cost him, even with workers giving their time. But another worker noted the normal rate for such equipment on construction jobs is $80 to $100 an hour for each piece of equipment.
One resident, Chris Jobe, said people in Toddville can only say thanks.
“For us, it’s priceless. We can keep going (with cleanup) and maybe we can worry more about our homes that need fixing,” he said.
For now, the debris trucked away by the construction volunteers went to a nearby spot on the north end of the community where it will await disposal. Residents said as the streets cleared, they were feeling better and better about the recovery.
Until the Palo contractor and his employees volunteered, the plan was to take up an Iowa Homeland Security offer to use state trucks and inmate labor beginning Monday. Linn County Supervisor John Harris said the county’s Emergency Management office will take a tour of Toddville on Saturday. They’ll decide then if the state trucks are still needed on Monday.
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