Newspaper column riles some West residents

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 11:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 12:20 AM

WEST — A column written Thanksgiving week in The West News is gaining its fair share of attention around the town that's still trying to recover from April's deadly fertilizer plant explosion.

Written by Karen Bernsen, the executive director of the West Long-Term Recovery Center, the article calls some of the residents impacted by the blast "ungrateful" and adds: "Their attitudes are jeopardizing their recovery."

Hollie Rhoades, who said her family lost their rental home in the explosion, said a lot of folks in town were talking about it.

A local Facebook page set up to monitor progress of the Long-Term Recovery Center had numerous comments from upset residents, too.

"I already had so much emotional drain," Rhoades said. "There were a lot of angry people."

At another point in the article, Bernsen writes about residents affected by the blast. "They complain about the unfairness of their circumstances and are dissatisfied with the solutions the case managers have worked hard to put together."

But some people who spoke to News 8 said they had no problem with the tone of the article, saying the overall message seemed positive.

Bernsen wasn't available to do an interview, but said in e-mail, "I've received many more positive reactions about my article than negative."

Indeed, the article does say that most affected residents are trying to move on with recovery.

Bernsen also expresses concern that some charity groups helping build new homes might pack up and head out if they feel their services aren't wanted.

On the Facebook page, some residents vented more strongly. One poster said that if the head of other charities like the Red Cross wrote similar thoughts, they would be dismissed.

To date, the WLTRC has distributed nearly $400,000 of the $3.6 million in private donations that funneled into the town after the explosion.

There are now around 450 cases the center is helping track, and Bernsen said the committee which decides which cases actually receive money is meeting at least once a week.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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