City offers Kokomo assistance

– Mayor Andy Cook talks with a Westfield public works employee as the city offered two dump trucks and a front loader to assist with storm cleanup.

Mayor Andy Cook talks with a Westfield public works employee as the city offered two dump trucks and a front loader to assist with storm cleanup.

The severe storms that spread through Indiana on Nov. 17 caused minimal damage to Westfield, but a tornado caused devastation in Kokomo.

“We were lucky we didn’t have major damage,” City Spokeswoman Erin Verplank said. “Westfield was very close to it but we were lucky.”

On Nov. 19, Westfield Public Works Director Ken Alexander and Mayor Andy Cook committed to provide Kokomo with two dump trucks and a front loader and a crew of three city employees to operate the vehicles and assist with the cleanup effort. Verplank said the city provided crews of workers for the week and one of the first tasks was to remove a tumbled home from a major roadway.

In addition to the employees, Cook, Verplank and Chief of Staff Todd Burtron traveled to Kokomo to tour the devastation.

“It’s pretty shocking when you’re seeing it in person and not on TV,” Verplank said. “The mayor kept saying, ‘This could have been us. One day it will be. It could have been Kokomo needing to help us.’”

Cook has ties to Kokomo as his mother, sister and nephew all live in the city.

“He has a sense of community. He finished high school in Kokomo,” Verplank said.

Verplank said at least eight mayors reached out to Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and Westfield and Peru were the first to send assistance.

“The support and generosity of Peru Mayor Jim Walker, Mayor Andy Cook and their communities means so much to me. Great to see mayors sticking together,” Goodnight tweeted.

Verplank said the next move for the city is not yet known.

“It’s wait-and-see what’s needed next,” she said. “This opens the door between the two cities and Mayor Goodnight is more comfortable to ask Mayor Cook if they could use more help.”