New permit policy for contractors working in tornado zone

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Reporter - Kendall Downing
Photojournalist - David Dycus

HARRISBURG, Ill. — Almost a week after Harrisburg's deadly and destructive tornado, contractors are pouring into the city looking to help home and business owners rebuild.

All contractors must come to city hall first.

"These people are being checked out through the police," said Sally Wofford, Harrisburg city clerk.

Contractors fill out paperwork to prove they're licensed and insured. Then, they pay $250 in cash for a 30-day permit.

It allows them to work in what's now being called the hot zone.

"They're doing a little more than most areas that got hit with storms but I don't think that's a bad idea," said Ed Gund, a local contractor.

Wofford said those from out of state and from out of the area can be granted a permit if their background information goes through.

Many are already on the ground in the disaster zone.

She said the permit system will protect people.

"They have enough on their minds right now without having to worry about whether the person that's doing work for them is a legitimate person and will be able to stand behind their work," said Wofford.

Homeowner Lee Dunn got a visit from a Chicago contractor the other day.

"It's nice that they come down to help but what are they going to do if you have problems later on?" Dunn asked.

He didn't take the contractor up on his offer. Neighbors are helping Dunn fix his roof.

"I don't think that's right for the local boys," Dunn said. "They've been here for years. Let them in and let them help."

Dunn said he understands the point behind the permit but believes local contractors shouldn't have to come up with cash just to help their neighbors.

"Trying to rebuilt as best as I can, use all the local help I can get," said Dunn.

It takes contractors between five and ten minutes to fill out the paperwork and find out if they're approved.

Since Monday, the city's granted more than 50 permits.

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