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Marshalltown cemetery hit hard by derecho denied FEMA relief funding

Riverside Cemetery estimates it'll cost around $1.5 million to complete all the clean-up and repairs. They've already had $700,000 worth of work done.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — It’s been nine months since a historic wind storm tore through Iowa.

The derecho snapped hundred-year-old trees like toothpicks and leveled monuments weighing several tons at Marshalltown’s Riverside Cemetery.

“By the time it was over it looked like a bomb had gone off through the entire grounds and we have almost 100 acres,” Riverside Cemetery’s General Manager Dorie Tammen said.

Tammen said they were closed for five weeks following the storm, working to make the grounds safe for the public.

But that clean-up cost them big time.

“We ended up with a $700,000 tree removal bill,” Tammen said. “That was after a $130,000 donation from the tree service. He knocked off that much from the bill to give us a hand.”

Watch: 'There are no words' | Marshalltown cemetery in shambles following derecho

The cemetery applied for federal relief money.

Initially, FEMA approved their request, but a couple of months later, it got denied. It turns out since Riverside is a non-profit cemetery, they don’t qualify for the funding.

Tammen isn’t sure why that is.

“I was just dumbstruck,” Tammen said.

A lot of cleanup has already been done at Riverside, but Tammen estimated it’ll cost them roughly another $700,000 to finish the clean-up.

“None of us want to leave the cemetery like this,” Tammen said. “We can’t have monuments fallen over and root balls sticking out of the ground.”

Before they start with future projects, they first have to pay off the quarter-million-dollar loan they took out and the $220,000 they owe a local tree removal service.

Riverside plans to appeal FEMA's funding denial since the community also uses the cemetery for recreational purposes such as riding bikes, taking walks and hosting annual community events.

“We’re not asking for the government to pay for everything, we’re just asking for some help,” Tammen said.

There are ways you can help with cleanup costs.

If you have any ties to Riverside Cemetery and have used it for recreational purposes, send Riverside an email at Riverside.cemetery@yahoo.com and share your experience.

They plan to use those statements to appeal FEMA's decision.

You can also make a donation by calling 641-753-7891 to make a credit card donation or mail checks to 611 N Center St, Marshalltown, IA 50158. There is also a GoFundMe set up to help the cemetery. 

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