- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

FAIRDALE, Ill. (AP) - A rural DeKalb County town is celebrating the strides it has made on its own since a tornado devastated the community last April.

A memorial event, a private breakfast for residents and first responders, and a house’s groundbreaking ceremony will be held Saturday in Fairdale to mark the one-year anniversary of the tornado, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald (https://bit.ly/1Swx0YS ) reported.

On April 9, 2015, a tornado struck the community, killing two people, destroying nearly 70 buildings and causing about $11 million in damage. The six-block town was too small to meet the minimum threshold of $18 million to receive federal disaster aid.

The DeKalb County Long-Term Recovery Corp. formed shortly after the tornado hit in an effort to help the affected residents rebuild.

“It was clear that there was not going to be any federal help,” said Bill Nicklas, vice president of the nonprofit organization.

Many of the homes were built close to the lot lines with their own well and septic field and tank, all close together, but current county law requires wells and tanks to be at least 50 feet apart, and wells and fields to be at least 75 feet apart. Setting the houses farther back on the lots would require building over those septic fields, which isn’t allowed, so the organization had to get creative.

“Geography and topography saved us,” Nicklas said.

After receiving permission from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the DeKalb County Long-Term Recovery Corp. bought seven acres of that field last July to serve as a community septic field, where effluent drains from individual septic tanks connected by sewer mains.

DeKalb County officials were persuaded to allow variances so homes could be rebuilt in their original positions.

“I think everybody could identify; this (the destruction of a small town) is a compelling story,” Nicklas said. “Speed was important. Urgency was the order of the day.”

The organization designated 13 volunteers as “case managers” who helped four to six clients with challenges such as dealing with insurance companies, contractors, finances and the specific requirements of building after a disaster.

In the past year, Fairdale has made improvements to its public infrastructure, including the new septic system, expanded natural gas service and better Internet access.

Currently, homes are being rebuilt or rehabilitated, and several residents have already been able to move back in.

Fairdale is located off Route 72, about 19 miles northwest of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

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Information from: Daily Herald, https://www.dailyherald.com


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