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Iowa CUs describe ordeal
MADISON, Wis. (6/17/08)--Credit unions in Iowa began the cleanup process to assess damages from last week's floods that put several cities under water. However, many still aren't allowed back in the buildings and the true damage hasn't surfaced yet. "We're still monitoring the situation," said Phil Tschudy, media relations manager for CUNA Mutual Group. "Due to the heavy evacuation in many cities, particularly in Iowa, the extent of those damages will not be known until the credit unions are allowed back to their buildings." Because flooding is covered by federal insurance, CUNA Mutual may not be notified of losses due directly to flooding," he told News Now. News Now contacted a number of affected credit unions in Iowa. Des Moines (Iowa) Metro CU, relocated its operations to First Class CU in West Des Moines Tuesday night, but is moving back its original location and should be back to normal operations by noon today, Brent Helin, Metro CU CEO, told News Now. “We are about 250 yards from the Des Moines River and it was at high flood level--where it was at in 1993. They were forecasting a higher crest this time, so we relocated before any potential flooding arose,” Helin said. “However, we’re fortunate that the river level has come down, and we’ve started to relocate back to our offices. We didn’t really have any [flooding] issues.” Des Moines Metro was in the process Monday of moving data processing and vital records back to the credit union, Helin said. “We’re just going to keep our fingers crossed,” he added. Cedar Falls (Iowa) Community CU closed last Tuesday on orders from the city and relocated to another branch in the area, but then reopened Friday, said Helen Pearce, executive vice president of the credit union. “We had a little water in the basement, but we put in a plug and now we are fine,” she said. “We relocated to another branch in town and put a message on our website. Our business continuity plan worked.” In the downtown area, people in the community came to sandbag and saved two downtown levees. However, one levee sustained a breakthrough and there was flooding, she said. “A lot of our members did not have flood insurance,”’ Pearce said. “Some had flood insurance on their homes but not on the contents. A lot of homes are gone. Many members are waiting to see what FEMA does. In many places, members have to wait for inspectors to arrive and inspect the damage. “Material items can be replaced but sentimental items such as pictures and crafts made by children cannot,” she concluded. Collins Community CU, Cedar Rapids, has six out of seven branches operating, said Rick Benhart, credit union president/CEO. “One branch has a basement full of water, no power and it is not operating,” he said. Of the credit union’s 180 employees, about eight to 10 are experiencing a loss of their homes. “We’re trying to help them and using different loan programs to help people directly affected by the 100-year and 500-year flood plains,” Benhart said. “I have an extremely dedicated staff, and they are working extremely hard,” he added. “One branch has telecommunications out, and the staff is using cell phones. I’m very proud of all our staff. They are dealing with the emotions of members coming in and talking to them about the floods. So far, so good. We are seeing lot of credit unions helping other credit unions.” The flood waters in Cedar Rapids are receding, but city officials are keeping people out because of fears that power poles might not stay up because the ground is not solidified yet. Officials also are worried about contamination and other concerns, Benhart said. In Iowa City, the University of Iowa Community CU's Student Memorial Union branch, closed on Friday due to flooding on campus, according to CEO Jeff Disterhoft. "There is three feet of water in the branch, and there may be more. We don't know because no one is allowed in or out," Disterhoft told News Now. The student union branch manager, Jennifer Broich, has been reassigned to the credit union's Iowa Avenue branch. So far, three employees have material challenges with flooding of their homes but there may be more, he said. "We're giving them as much latitude as possible to take care of things they need to do, such as water and power outages. Many have more than a casual amount of water in their homes," Disterhoft said. The credit union's board and staff will meet this afternoon to brainstorm ways the credit union can assist and determine who to partner with in the relief efforts and how the credit union will do so. "We feel fortunate. Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls have people in much more need. We're doing our best to determine who to partner up with to help," he said. In Waterloo, Iowa, Midwest Utilities CU's disaster plan was to move the credit union to Mid-American Energy, the business that it serves. But although the energy plant wasn't under water, everything else around it was, cutting off access, said Robert Hill, Midwest Utilities CEO. So, the credit union moved its operation to Hill's house. "We were only there for two days," Hill explained. "We reopened the credit union on Friday." Running the credit union's operation from Hill's home was a challenge because of Internet connections and software, but Midwest was able to serve its members. To let members know the credit union was closed, Hill put a sign on the credit union's door, and contacted the local newspaper and news stations about the closing. Iowa Community CU, Waterloo, closed its Waterloo branch last week and reopened it Monday, Mark Heth, Iowa Community CU CEO, told News Now. The Cedar Rapids branch also was closed and was relocated to Collins Community CU in Cedar Rapids. The credit union plans to offer disaster loan assistance to members, Heth added.
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