area residents began bringing debris from downed trees and branches to their curb side, where city workers, along with five work crews of 34 inmates from the North Iowa Correctional Facility in Rockwell City, picked up the debris for disposal.
Cherokee City Administrator Don Eikmeier was very thankful for all the help the city has received. "With all this help, months of clean up efforts will be completed in a week or so," replied Eikmeier.
The extra help was thanks to the efforts of Rick Forkenbrock. Forkenbrock is a part-time vocational instructor at the CUSO unit in Cherokee and a former Cherokee Mental Heath employee.
Forkenbrock was having coffee with Mike Taylor on Thursday, and wondered if the City would want to use help from inmates at Rockwell City for the cleanup. Taylor led Forkenbrock to City Administrator Eikmeier, who thought it was an excellent idea.
Shortly thereafter, Forkenbrock and Eikmeier contacted Cherokee County Emergency Manager Aimee Barritt, who passed the request for workers to the the Iowa Department of Corrections.
With IDC permission, the Cherokee County School District, under the leadership of Superintendent John Chalstrom, sent a bus to Rockwell City to pick up the inmates. Chalstrom, along with Washington High School Principal Larry Hunecke and many other staff at WHS, has been busy the past couple of days with the clean up on the campus of the high school, working side- by- side with the inmates to speed up the clean up efforts.
Eikmeier was extremely proud of the coordinated efforts of Forkenbrock, the County's Secondary Roads Department, and the City of Cherokee Street Department for all of their help. Eikmeier also expressed his gratitude to the Cherokee School District, along with the ladies from the Methodist Church, who supplied meals and beverages for the crews.
Both city crews and the inmate crews concentrated Friday's clean up efforts around the areas of Eighth Street and Cherry Street, Eleventh Street and Cedar Street, the Washington High School campus and the mess left at the Cherokee Villa and Rehab Center by Thursday's severe thunderstorm.
Eikmeier and other city leaders understand that the mess caused by the storm can't be cleaned up overnight, but he says the city is working with residents to help make the process easier for everyone during the clean up, which is likely to last for weeks to come.
With all the positive efforts, there has also unfortunately been a dark cloud looming over Cherokee's cleanup efforts.
Unscrupulous tree trimming services have appeared in Cherokee since the storm, and Eikmeier warns residents to be wary of these individuals, who have been charging significant, unreasonable fees for their services.