Ky. town turning devastation into innovation
Photo courtesy of WKYT-TV
Five years after West Liberty, Ky., was hit by a deadly EF-3 tornado, the community has since been rebuilt cleaner and greener.
What West Liberty has done was inspired by Greensburg, Kan., a city hundreds of miles away that knows what it's like to be hit by a powerful tornado, reports WKYT-TV in Lexington, Ky.
"Here is a town that has rebuilt, pulled up their boot straps, and just found a way to rebuild and carry on their life," said Bobby Clark of Midwest Clean Energy Enterprise.
Clark has been a part of the post-disaster recovery in West Liberty that was modeled after Greensburg.
"Destroyed by an EF-5 tornado, only three buildings remained after this tornado and the community decided to build back a green sustainable community. They got a wind farm, they had to build everything from schools to government and homes in the community," Clark said.
Greensburg rebuilt its community with green building construction, using 100 percent renewable energy and using wind farms to keep the lights on. In West Liberty, that same goal was made part of its master plan to a degree.
One of those meeting the challenge, Commercial Bank in downtown, was built green in its design and construction. From the materials used to build it, to a rain garden outside, to the 30 wells drilled for the renewable geothermal heating and cooling system, it's all paying off when it comes to being more sustainable.
"Right now, we are showing a significant savings from our old facility we had before the tornado to approximately 45 percent in ... utility bills right now," said Jim Gazay of Commercial Bank.
"Even though we are in the foothills of coal country, it was not outrageous for us to look at energy efficiency and renewable energy as one of the pathways to helping this community transform," Clark said.
Through the West Liberty Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard project, Bobby Clark is helping people think about their footprint on the environment.
A dashboard, paid for through grant money, monitors energy used in the bank and is on display for the public to see. Linked to the dashboard are four units at an apartment complex nearby and two homes built by Habitat for Humanity.
There is also an education component for students near West Liberty as part of this project. Six teachers have been trained to help teach sustainable lessons and encourage students to think about being greener.
One thing West Liberty project leaders were impressed by was seeing the way Greensburg became a tourist destination for people seeking out more on its rebranding and rebuilding green initiative.
West Liberty will celebrate Commercial Bank and hold a LEED Plaque ceremony in June.
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