After having lived through the May 22 tornado and seeing her home of 20 years destroyed on East 24th Street, Shirley Boone has been frightened during recent storms.
“I wanted an emergency radio,” she said. “With a radio, we could track storms, we’d have information.”
She went to the Joplin Fire Station at 23nd and Texas streets and stood in line for one of 4,000 emergency weather radios the city of Joplin ordered to hand out free as a way to increase weather awareness.
“It started to rain, and someone came out and announced, ‘These radios are for Joplin residents only. People who live inside the city limits,’” Boone said.
About eight people in front of her walked away, but she stayed and argued.
“I asked if people who lived in Duquesne, who saw their homes totally destroyed too, are not allowed to receive them, and he said no, we are not,” she said.
Joplin city officials have said from the beginning the radios are available only to Joplin residents, because they were paid for by a fund designated to be used by the city of Joplin.
Lynn Onstot, public information officer for the city of Joplin, said the decision to purchase weather radios and make them available to Joplin residents was made by the board of directors of Joplin Tornado First Response, which paired funds with a contribution by the American Red Cross.
“The contributions came in the aftermath of the storm and were made directly to the city of Joplin,” she said.
Onstot said that while she understood the frustration of those living outside the city limits, the residents of Joplin are who the city of Joplin has been charged with providing services.
Phil Stinnett, chairman of the Joplin Tornado First Response board, said the response fund was started shortly after the tornado occurred, and the board of directors was authorized and appointed by the Joplin City Council a few months ago. The bylaws and guidelines under which the board operates stipulate the funds be used to benefit the citizens of Joplin in rebuilding efforts and public safety.
“We obviously have to work within those restrictions to help the citizens recover,” Stinnett said.
People who want a radio were required to show proof of a Joplin address, such as a utility bill or tax receipt, within the city limits. Duquesne residents complained that their addresses say Joplin, not Duquesne, but they are not eligible. Onstot said those who live in Duquesne have Joplin addresses because of a decision by the U.S. Postal Service, not by the city of Joplin.
Boone said she wished Duquesne had been included in the Joplin distribution effort.
“We, the people of Duquesne, are just as devastated as Joplin residents. I pay Joplin taxes, road district and school taxes. I grew up here, have lived here since 1955. I went to Emerson, South (Middle School), Joplin High, Memorial, and I have worked in Joplin for 22 years,” she said. “I consider myself a Joplin resident, too. I am livid.”
“We are just as devastated. We are just as scared when the storms come through.”
Duquesne leaders haven’t yet looked into such a program, according to David Weaver, the assistant mayor in Duquesne, nor has there been talk about applying for such funding — primarily because they are limited in staff and have been juggling many other projects, he said.
“We’re still working with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) on debris cleanup and a number of other things. We hadn’t really considered (radios) one way or another,” he said. “It might need to be something we need to look at, to see if funding is available.”
Prior to May 22, there were 700 homes in Duquesne. About 250 of them were destroyed by the tornado, and about 100 of those are reoccupied, according to Weaver.
“I’ve read about it some in the paper,” said Weaver of the radio project. “I think it’s a matter of following up with Joplin to see how they went through the process. I have a meeting with (Mayor Denny White) on Monday, and we’ll try to figure it out.”
Available for purchase
The emergency weather radios are available at stores such as Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Target for about $30.