County OKs corps lead on cleanup

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Lincoln County supervisors met with members of the FederalEmergency Management Agency on Tuesday amid hurried cellular phoneconversations with county crews.

The board agreed, after a lengthy discussion, to allow the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers to take control of cleanup operations inthe county. However, FEMA representatives James Gilliam and JackMiller were unable to determine how long it might take for that tooccur.

County officials and members of the Corps of Engineers shouldmeet within the next few days to develop a plan, Miller said.

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Under the plan, the corps, through FEMA, would hire a largecontractor to remove debris on all county rights-of-way. FEMA wouldreimburse the county in full for any overtime wages of countyemployees, equipment costs and fuel used in cleanup operations for60 days beginning Aug. 31. The agency would then reimburse thecounty at 75 percent after the first 60 days.

“We suspect it might be extended because of the severity of thestorm, but we don’t know that,” Miller said.

Supervisors were concerned about how much input they would havein cleanup operations once the corps had control. The corps willmonitor the contractor, while FEMA monitors the corps.

Some areas in the county would be needed as staging areas andcollection points, Gilliam said. The debris would be gathered atthose sites for disposal.

Residents can help the cleanup effort by moving trees and limbs,white goods or housing materials, such as lumber without nails, tothe right-of-way. The items must be separated by type forpickup.

“That’s a blessing to the people then,” said District OneSupervisor the Rev. Jerry Wilson.

The board voted unanimously to enter into the FEMA agreement. Atelephone call from county engineer Carl Ray Furr, however,prompted county attorney Bob Allen to call an executive sessionunder a clause for emergency situations that could causeirrevocable harm to persons or property.

Allen said after the executive session the board took no actionand would wait for Furr. The executive session was called, he said,because Furr had reservations about the agreement and wanted todiscuss it with the board. The engineer was already en route to themeeting from his office in Jackson.

The board did not go back into executive session on Furr’sarrival, and the discussion was held openly.

“My opinion is that if we can deal with the Corps of Engineerswe need to do that, but we need to be able to tell them who theycan contract with,” Furr said.

The corps will likely contract with national contractors, suchas Halliburton or Kellogg, Brown & Root, Furr said. However,state leadership would prefer Mississippi contractors get thosecontracts to help bolster Mississippi’s economy during itsrecovery.

“That’s the rub we have with going with the corps,” he said. “Wewant to look after our Mississippi people.”

The board agreed with Furr’s sentiments but said its firstpriority was the people of Lincoln County and the FEMA agreementwas the best thing they could do for the county.

Furr, a Lincoln County native, agreed. He suggested the boardappoint him, as engineer, to work with the Corps of Engineers andFEMA as a liaison to get as many state contractors on the job aspossible without jeopardizing the agreement. He said he was awareof a major contractor in Florida, who has contracted with the corpsbefore, that is ready to move into the affected area and hirelocally as much as possible.

The board approved Furr to represent the county. Furr haspreviously represented the county in meetings with federal agenciesregarding disaster relief.