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Joplin mayor, Blunt discuss rebuilding 30 days after tornado

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On the CBS Early Show this morning, Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said recovery efforts were slow but progress was being made 30 days after the May 22 tornado struck Joplin, killing a reported 155 people.

“We’re going at it day by day,” Woolston told CBS. “We feel we’re well on our way back to recovery.”

Woolston said the St. John’s hospital, arguably the most notable structure damaged, has been determined unsalvageable.

“The folks at St. John’s are looking for an alternate location,” Woolston said. “They have committed to rebuilding the hospital, though it is very unlikely it will be at this physical location. It will be somewhere within the city.”

St. John’s spokeswoman Cora Scott confirmed to Springfield Business Journal that structural engineers said the facility is not viable for relocation. She said a modular, temporary hospital would be constructed on the current campus within four to six months.

On June 12, Lynn Britton, president and CEO of St. John’s parent Mercy, told the hospital’s 2,200 employees the organization would break ground on a permanent hospital by January, and he showed the staff conceptual renderings. Mike McCreary, Mercy’s chief of technology services, last week told SBJ a site selection committee has been formed.

Woolston said the next step for the city is to demolish the damaged structures that are still standing.

To aid the rebuilding of more than 400 businesses and 7,000 structures, Blunt pointed to the Joplin Tomorrow Fund that he and former U.S. Sen. John Danforth launched on June 20 with a fundraising goal of $10 million. Blunt told CBS the fund already has $1 million committed with $500,000 coming from the Danforth Foundation.

“The goal (is) to rebuild the business community by making low- or no-interest loans available to a business that wants to grow beyond its insurance coverage or a new business that wants to come in,” Blunt said on the show. “It is to encourage those people who want to come back even stronger than they were or want to see the opportunity of the new Joplin.”

In a separate interview with St. Louis radio station KMOX, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said about 145 price-gouging complaints in Joplin have been registered with his office since last month’s tornado. He said most complaints cite inflated hotel and rental property rates, according to St. Louis Business Journal.
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