Skipton rebuilds

Ghost town: Skipton businesses have been closed for five weeks due to flood damage.

Shops are closed and a bus is running to nearby Smythesdale so residents can buy their weekly groceries – five weeks after devastating floods and Skipton is still recovering.
Flooded out shops in the town’s main precinct are in the process of being rebuilt, doors are flung open to air the buildings out and the sound of circular saws and hammers echo across the empty street.
Skipton may be down, but it definitely isn’t out.
Skipton Garage proprietor Kerry Howell said he hoped to open for business next week.
“It’s been a long haul, but what can you do,” he said.
“I’ve got work booked in for next week, so I’ll be opening.”
A black grimy film covers the walls of Mr Howell’s garage in a tell-tale sign of how high the water level rose.
“Judging from the marks left behind, the water was up to my shoulder at least,” he said.
“When the flood subsided and I could finally get back in the garage to have a look, there was 600 litres of waste oil floating on top of the water.
“I remember my first glimpse of the damage – I opened the door, saw how bad it was, shut the door and walked away.
“The force of the water was incredible – it just picked up a full 44 gallon drum of oil like it was nothing and left it sitting on a bench.”
Mr Howell heaped praise on the Corangamite Shire for getting him going again.
“They were terrific – I wasn’t even there and they came in, put detergent all over the floors and hosed the place out.
“Then they organised for a waste contractor to come and pump out the pits and get rid of all the oil.
“I’ve lost a lot of my electrical tools, like welders and battery chargers, but the hand tools should clean up alright.
“I’ve been closed long enough, it’s time to get on with it now.”
The town’s UFS dispensary fared a little better – back in business in premises across the road on higher ground a day-and-a-half later.
Pharmacy assistant Cheryl Sturgeon said the original building would be totally gutted and remodelled.
“We’d put all the medicines and stock up on higher shelves, but when we went in to have a look after the floodwater receded, there were things floating everywhere – the water had risen three feet higher than we ever dreamed,” she said.
“It was terribly disappointing and we began to worry that the UFS head-office would close us for good.
“Thankfully they’ve committed their full support and a rebuild of the shop should get under way in the next couple of weeks. 
“Who knows, we could end up with something better than we had!”
Realising the need for a chemist within the town, a group of about 30 locals rallied together and set up the dispensary in a vacant building across the road on higher ground.
“It has been hard for the whole community, it’s like a ghost town without the cars coming and going at the shops,” she said.
“But we’re being positive and looking ahead – all the shops are planning to rebuild or renovate.
“Some could even be opened as soon as the Labour Day weekend.”
Ms Sturgeon said the pub had already repaired the bar and bottle shop areas and intended to have a new kitchen installed in about six months.
“And it won’t be long before the supermarket is back in action too.
“Wait and see, Skipton will be a new little town.”

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