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Road to recovery for a Polk County church hit by EF-2 tornado could see major roadblock

$50,000 of red tape could delay recovery
Mt Tabor Baptist Church
Posted at 10:12 PM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 06:05:10-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. -- The pastor of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church says there are so many people to thank for helping clean up and rebuild following a tornado last week; he doesn't even know where to begin.

Pastor Matt Gilmore said, despite an outpouring of support from family, friends, and total strangers, how far they can take their recovery efforts is in limbo.

"I have a meeting with Polk County Land Development Friday morning. That's a huge meeting for us," Gilmore said. "We've hit an obstacle about building back, and we need to build back. I have to be able to build something to house the ministry center."

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Gilmore said the food ministry destroyed by the storm can't be rebuilt unless he brings the entire property up to code.

"We tried to add on in the Spring, and we were told that we had to provide 30,000 gallon water tank and a well that pumped a thousand gallons a minute, we are talking $50,000 just to provide water for firefighting cause the nearest fire hydrant from us is .6 miles away," Gilmore said. "They've told me if I build anything, I have to provide that well that's $50,000. We are not getting much more than that even for the building."

Since the storm hit Friday night, the community has rallied around the church, clearing debris, working to get their food pantry back up and running, and cleaning the damage inside the church.

"We had a lady came by yesterday, and she handed me an envelope and said this is for the food bank got in her car and left I opened the envelope there was a thousand dollars in there, no name," Gilmore said. And, that's what we are experiencing right now. People are just giving."

Gilmore said he doesn't know what will happen Friday, but he is keeping the faith.

"If they tell me 'no' on Friday, we'll take up the concrete, have a really big yard and find a way to do it," Gilmore said.

Gilmore said one option is having a refrigerated truck parked on the lot to keep food from spoiling as the more than 250 families gather weekly on Thursdays for food.