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West Residents Still Frustrated With Long Term Recovery Center


Some West residents frustrated with how donated funds are distributed organize a meeting to find a solution.

Residents met at Nors Sausage in West for over an hour. The point of the meeting was to dispel some rumors, let people share experiences, figure out what's going on and possibly find a solution. 

"We're trying to just bring light to the fact that seven months later not much has changed," meeting leader Carol Waddell said. "This is just wanting to find out why there wasn't a better way of dispersing the donated money that came into West."

Only seven people came, but it was mentioned some other West residents didn't show because they gave up on trying to get help or they were scared to come because they thought it would ruin their chances of getting donation money.

The people who did show claim it's been a constant battle getting money distributed to blast victims. A few mentioned they had to fill out the same paper work more than once and another claimed he had to go to the center five times because case workers misplaces their information.

"So far, none of these people have gotten any help that I'm aware of," Sharon Rios said. "Most of them have just given up and they are humiliated by the questions that are being asked: How big was your home? We need to see your social security statement."

Rios had multiple family members lose their homes and she has been fighting for them.

The West Long Term Recovery Center has approved around $300,000 for residents. This is of the $3.7 million in donations that have come in from all around the world. The unmet needs committee has approved funding to specific cases, but that doesn't mean residents have received checks. That's because the checks are sent when invoices come in. They are then given to pay for medical bills or to contractors.

Director of the LTRC Karen Bernsen says their system is set up so they can maximize the money donated to meet the unmet needs of residents. She says it's estimated it would take $30 million to cover all of the town's unmet needs.

"The system that we have is the best that we could create and for the community. And it's not going to make everybody happy but everybody involved is doing the best they can and we think it's a pretty fair system," Bernsen said.

Waddell, though, says she wants it to be different. She says she's seen a better way to distribute money in other disaster areas like after the Boston bombing.

"They just set up a system where they dispersed it, they took how much money there was, how many people were affected. This is how much money you get. To me that would've been the fairest way to do it," Waddell said.

Bernsen was not at the meeting, but she was okay with residents getting together. She also says she's always open to new ideas.

"They can meet and I would encourage them if they have further questions, just come by and ask. I'd be happy to help them get the information they need," Bernsen said.

"It may be too late to change anything. We don't know, but the way this has all been handled and run has not been fair and it's definitely not transparent," Waddell said.

Bernsen says there are a lot of people in town who are recovering. She says you can just look in zone three and see the results.

The Salvation Army is planning on helping the people of West. They will distribute 500 turkeys to West residents on Friday between 5 and 7 p.m. This is thanks to a donation by Cargil Meat Solutions.

You can pick up a turkey behind the LTRC in the back alley as long as you have a driver's license showing you're a West resident. Turkeys will be first come first serve and one per household.


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