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Photo by Diane Cox
Alton Mayor Brant Walker points out flood damage to Gov. Bruce Rauner and is accompanied by Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan on Friday morning.
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Photo by Diane Cox
State and local politicians spend New Year’s Day evaluating floodwaters in Greater Alton. At left, Alton Mayor Brant Walker points out flood damage to Gov. Bruce Rauner and is accompanied by Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan. (Above, from left) Alton Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, Alton City Alderperson Charles Brake, Public Works Director Robert Barnhart, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, Mayor Brant Walker, Gov. Bruce Rauner, state Rep. Dan Beiser, Alton Fire Chief Bernie Sebold and Jake Joseph of Illinois Emergency Management.
ALTON – Gov. Bruce Rauner spent New Year's Day touring the region, surveying damage that followed days of heavy rains and flooding.
Alton Mayor Brant Walker, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan and state Rep. Dan Beiser climbed on top of the flood walls designed and built by local volunteers to see the damage caused by the Mississippi River in downtown Alton.
On Dec. 29, Rauner declared Calhoun, Jackson, Jersey, Madison, Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair counties a state disaster area and added Alexander, Christian, Clinton, Douglas and Morgan counties on Dec. 30 as floodwaters continued to rise.
"It is amazing the way this community has come together," Rauner said. “The hard work done by so many saved the heart of downtown Alton. Hundreds of volunteers built this wall to keep floodwaters back from area businesses and I think it's wonderful what they've accomplished. It's incredible the amount of work that was done in just a day and a half."
Rauner thanked local volunteers and first responders for their efforts and their success in restraining what was estimated to be one of the top three most destructive floods in the history of Alton.
"We will cross our fingers that we won't see any more rain for at least a few weeks," Rauner said. "It's very dangerous to have this kind of rain and top it off with this kind of cold. Hypothermia has been a concern for those who have had to come out and work in these conditions to keep the city safe from flood destruction."
Rauner sought information on local businesses affected by the flood and inquired about loss of revenue to the city from the closure of facilities such as the Argosy Casino.
"I am aware that the economy here has taken a hit," Rauner said. "With businesses such as the Ardent flour mill and the casino closed, customers don't have access and workers are unable to perform their jobs. We know what it means to lose that revenue and especially around the holiday when business would most likely be at a peak. Those are tragic, but I know this community will recover. We are going to make sure that we can help with every opportunity we can to help families and businesses recoup."
"We are asking that all the local communities affected keep track of all money spent due to this event," Rauner said. "We need everyone to keep good records so we are prepared when we go to the federal government and maximize the opportunity for recovery.”
Rauner could not indicate the extent of assistance the region will receive from state and federal funding on Friday, as the floodwaters are just beginning to crest in the region. The next several weeks will tell a lot for the 12 counties declared a disaster area as the water begins to recede.