Community Custody Crew Aids in Nebraska Flood Cleanup

By CN Staff

LINCOLN, Neb.— A road crew from the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln (CCC-L) recently wrapped up their flood relief efforts at the Nebraska National Guard training site at Camp Ashland. While not strangers to hard work, crew members were confronted with an especially difficult challenge when they arrived at the gates more than a month ago.

When Corporal David Colling, of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) and his group first arrived, they were unable to gain access to the grounds due to the high water. As floodwaters receded in the following week, it became apparent how much cleanup it would take to restore the base.

The team, supervised by Cpl. Colling, is one of two road crews contracted by the military through Cornhusker State Industries (CSI).  People housed at CCC-L are first assigned to work detail crews, and then later transitioned to private sector jobs in the community. Kyle Miller has been with the road crew four months, acting as crew leader. He said the experience has been a positive one. “It gets me out and helps the days go by fast. It is hard work, but worth it.”

Normally, Cpl. Colling oversees a group of three men through the winter and up to five men during the spring and summer months who work at the National Guard base in Mead, Neb. Regular work during the year consists of shoveling walkways, mowing the vast grounds and ditches, cleaning up fallen trees or branches, picking up trash and digging out noxious weeds.  After witnessing the devastation at Camp Ashland, the National Guard submitted a request to CSI to provide a larger crew at the base.

Since mid-March, a group of around 16 men have made the trip daily from CCC-L, with everything needed for eight hour workdays, including fresh water. Water provided at the base was deemed unsafe to drink. 

“Having a larger crew has been crucial, said Cpl. Colling. “They’ve been working incredibly hard and the speed at which they’ve worked has been a key factor in hopefully salvaging the buildings.”

Ryan Barbeau joined the crew when it became apparent that more men would be needed for the job. While the group has worked in cold and wet conditions, Barbeau noted, “It feels good knowing we are giving back to the troops and the community”

Unfortunately, not all could be saved.  Due to contamination, most items have been destroyed, including brand new furniture, which ironically, had recently been built and delivered by CSI.  Over the past several weeks, members of the road crew have cleared buildings of flood-damaged furniture, ripped out dry wall and wood panels, collected equipment for salvage and cleaned up tons of debris.

“Their help has been invaluable, said David Nanfito, first sergeant with the National Guard. “They came here with mindset to work hard and get stuff done. Thanks to their fast and efficient work, we were able to prevent more damage from mold setting in. Without these men, it would have taken much longer.”

The Guard base in Ashland will reopen in stages, starting in a few weeks.