Officials turn down corps help in cleanup

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 9, 2005

Lawrence County supervisors refused an agreement to allow theU.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clean up the county followingHurricane Katrina.

“Obviously when you do that you are relinquishing some control,”county engineer Jeff Dungan said during a Thursday board meeting.Dungan did not make a recommendation on the proposal.

Monticello aldermen Thursday night chose to control cleanupoperations themselves.

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Whether the county agreed to let the corps do the cleanup orcontracted the job itself, it is eligible, through the FederalEmergency Management Agency, for full reimbursement of overtime,equipment and fuel costs for 60 days beginning Aug. 29, the dayHurricane Katrina ravaged the county.

“There’s a good possibility it could be extended because there’sa lot of people who won’t be able to get going on this until thetail end,” said James Gilliam, a FEMA public assistancerepresentative.

By not entering into the corps agreement, the county will haveto hire a contractor and monitors to oversee the contractor’soperations for FEMA.

“If I’m going to be responsible for something, I want to havecontrol,” board President Billy Joe Boutwell said.

Control of the cleanup operation and ensuring local companiescould participate were among the issues discussed in a boardroomfilled with county and town officials and Lawrence Countycontractors.

Under the corps agreement, the federal agency would havecontracted with one of two national contractors it is using in thestate to clear debris.

Those national contractors likely would have subcontracted thejob to a Mississippi contractor, but the county would not have anyinput into which state contractor got the job or whether LawrenceCounty businesses could also participate, Dungan said.

By issuing the contract themselves, county supervisors can setguidelines in the bidding process, such as stipulating thatcontractors accepting the job hire the county’s small independentcontractors.

Dungan said he expected to advertise for bids today and openthem Monday so cleanup operations could begin as soon aspossible.

“I don’t have any concern at all – none – that we can’t get thecounty cleaned up in the 60-day window,” Dungan said.

Supervisors and their road crews have been working to cleardebris since the hurricane.

New Hebron and Silver Creek mayors called an emergency meetingThursday night to advise their boards of the county’s decision. Thetwo towns opted to allow the county to oversee their debrisremoval.

Monticello aldermen, who recessed Tuesday’s meeting untilThursday night to discuss debris removal, decided not to enter intoan agreement with the county and to hire a contractor themselves,District Two Alderman Steve Morman said.

“We voted to do our own,” he said. “We just felt we would bemore responsible to the needs of the people of Monticello.”

Monticello Mayor David Nichols said he appreciated the county’soffer and their help during this time of disaster. However, he saidaldermen believed the county had a wide area to clean up and itwould be quicker for the town to do its own cleanup, which wouldfree up the county’s contractor to concentrate on other areas.

“It gives us the control, and the obligation as well, to makesure our citizens are taken care of,” he said.

Aldermen were meeting with town engineers this morning to drawup the specifications they would demand of contractors wanting thejob.