Vilonia Considers Rebuilding Options After Tornado

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 12:00 am  

After the devastating tornado that hit Faulkner County on April 27, Vilonia residents are tiptoeing into the rebuilding process.

While the rebuilding of a nearly $13 million school for the Vilonia School District is moving forward, a group of citizens is hoping business owners will wait and consider all options before construction starts on the city’s Main Street.

Stanley Gordon Jr., owner of Gordon Financial Services of Vilonia, said he and another Vilonia resident, Marty Knight, have formed a grassroots committee to discuss the future of the city. He said about 65 people have volunteered to be on one of the three subcommittees that involve property owners, planning and looking for grants or public money for beautification projects on Main Street, which was wiped out by the April tornado that also killed 15 Arkansans.

Sue Shock, owner of Sue Shock Insurance of Vilonia, said her renovated 1,100-SF home that she used for her business was destroyed by the tornado.

(See Disaster Planning Should Start Early.)

“There’s certainly not a place in Vilonia to put a business, because it’s pretty much wiped out,” said Shock, who is the sister of Stanley Gordon.

She said she considered renovating another one of her buildings or rebuilding. But when she heard about the citizens group to develop plans for Vilonia, she decided to delay her decision.

“So many of us are putting things on hold right now,” said Shock.

She said business owners are talking with architects and other committee members “to do things in a fashion where we won’t look back later and say, ‘Man, we had a clean slate, and why didn’t we do it this way or that way?’”

In the meantime, she is operating her business, which sells various lines of insurance, out of her residence.

Vilonia Mayor James Firestone said 22 businesses were destroyed by the tornado, while 15 received major damage and about 20 with minor damage have continued to operate.

Firestone said the city of Vilonia, which has about 4,000 residents, has waived all fees for building permits for those businesses that are rebuilding. “We’re doing our best to expedite everything for them,” he said.



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