State Money Headed to Brookport


By Sam Jones
By Andy Shofstall

MASSAC COUNTY – The tornado that ripped through Brookport eight months ago left three dead and millions in damages, but FEMA refused to help local governments recover. They've struggled to handle expenses and fix damaged infrastructure, until now.

IDOT and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency have approved $1.8 million in funding.

“It's like Christmas basically in July,” Police Chief John Barr enthused.

Brookport's come a long way since November 17th, mostly thanks to volunteers working to rebuild the town. Chief Barr's been in the thick of it since the beginning.

“We're working basically paycheck to paycheck. If it doesn't come in from the state, then we have to look at what we can pay,” he said.

Work on streets and sidewalks had been halted with infrastructure in dire need of repairs.

“Our roads weren't made to handle the weight of the trucks that was used to move debris and clean the town to prepare it for rebuild,” Barr explained.

Alderman Tom Souders agreed. He worked as interim mayor for months and pushed for this funding.

“This is gonna cover us. All the money we spent removing all the debris and burning and fixing stuff back,” added Souders.

They built up so much overtime after the tornado, so this funding will help with that debt. Much of it will go toward replacing almost every street in town, along with many sidewalks. 

“You don't wanna say the city would cease to exist, but the city would be in debt horribly for a long time if it hadn't been for this,” admitted Souders.

It's a balancing act between repairing past damage and making way for new revenue.

“Now we need the businesses to look at us and to do that we have to have the infrastructure that attracts business,” Barr urged.

People are slowly moving back to town, as new homes are built. Signs that Brookport hasn't given up.

“The true people that lived here were born and raised here; they never gave up, they still show up at my door everyday wanting to know what they can do, what do we need next,” Barr said.

Much of the work on those homes is done by volunteers. City leaders say the community can use all the help they can get with clean up and recovery.

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