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Xenia to get tornado aid

The Associated Press

XENIA – A declaration by President Clinton that this tornado-ravaged city qualifies as a major disaster area was welcome news for local and state officials.

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

XENIA – A declaration by President Clinton that this tornado-ravaged city qualifies as a major disaster area was welcome news for local and state officials.

They consider the federal aid as vital to state and local recovery efforts.

Mayor John Saraga called the news fantastic.

”I’m just as grateful as can be,” Saraga said. ”Xenia would be really in trouble without this.”

Clinton’s action on Tuesday makes federal funding available to residents of Greene County in the form of grants and low-cost loans to recover from the effects of the tornado.

James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director, said the action also makes some funding available to the state for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.

One person was killed and about 100 injured in the Sept. 20 tornado in this southwest Ohio city.

The storm destroyed 50 homes and damaged up to 125 others, as well as about 20 businesses.

Preliminary estimates put property damage at $20 million.

Under the federal declaration, some residents could be eligible for:

-Rental payments for temporary housing.

-Cash grants for minimal emergency repairs not covered by insurance.

-Payments for up to 26 weeks for workers who lost jobs because of the disaster and do not qualify for state benefits.

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, applauded Clinton’s action.

”As the community works to put homes, businesses and lives back together, this assistance will greatly contribute to the healing and rebuilding efforts,” DeWine said.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft also said he was pleased that the state received individual assistance grants, but he was disappointed that Clinton did not allow for public assistance grants.

”The Greene County Fairgrounds and the Xenia City Service Center were devastated,” Taft said. ”These public facilities are vital to Xenia’s full recovery and the fairgrounds is an integral part of this agricultural county’s well-being and livelihood.”

Additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be made available later if they are requested and if further damage assessments show more assistance is needed, Witt said.

Witt planned to tour Xenia and other storm-damaged areas of Greene County on Wednesday.

The news from Washington came as the storm’s only fatality, James Mullins Jr., 63, was buried in Xenia.

His flag-draped casket was carried atop a horse-drawn wagon through city streets to the cemetery.

Dean Hopkins, a friend and business associate of Mullins, drove the horses.

He said Mullins loved horses and riding.

”If he had a choice, this is what he would have wanted for a final ride,” Hopkins said.

Mullins died when a tree fell on his car at the Greene County Fairgrounds. His wife, Anita, remained at Miami Valley Hospital in serious condition Tuesday.

While cleanup efforts continue, there was some indication Tuesday that progress is being made in the city’s recovery. The National Guard members brought in to help local police with traffic and security were dismissed.

On the Net:

Federal Emergency Management Agency site: www.fema.gov