Time running out on storm cleanup work

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2005

With U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials committed tocompleting Hurricane Katrina debris removal soon, local officialstoday set an Oct. 21 deadline for residents to have their debris tothe curb for pickup.

“We hoping, by the end of the month, to wrap this up,” JohnCoffey, resident engineer for the Corps, said during this morning’sbriefing for local officials.

At Coffey’s recommendation, county and city officials set thedeadline for residents to have debris at the curbside. Officialsstressed the debris should be storm-related and not garbage, whichis picked up by a private company for the city and county.

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Coffey said the first pass in the city is nearing an end and thefirst pass in the county is well under way. Corps officials arepreparing a map of areas where debris remains to be picked up inthe county.

Removal of construction and demolition debris is ready tobegin.

“That will go relatively quickly,” Coffey said.

The Corps has 60 days from the date of the hurricane to havedebris removed. Coffey and Brookhaven-Lincoln County Civil DefenseDirector Clifford Galey said they had heard of no extension of thatdeadline, but Coffey suggested one could be possible due to theamount of debris still on the ground in coastal counties.

Within the 60 days, debris removal costs are covered by theFederal Emergency Management Agency, and there is a cost-share withlocal governments after that. Coffey said Corps officials arecognizant of the deadline.

“We’re watching that bullseye very closely,” he said.

County officials asked about the involvement of localcontractors in clean up efforts.

Corps officials said some local contractors had done some debrisremoval, but only a few had the right equipment to pick up largestumps and similar items in order to be able to complete work onschedule. Crews are being brought in from other parts of the stateto work and will stay until released, said Jason Santiago, projectmanager.

“I don’t see where we’re going to have any more problems overthe next 20 days,” Santiago said.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop voiced financial concerns intrying to complete work on time.

“We’re at a point now, if it’s going to be cost effective forthe county, we’ve got to get it done,” Bishop said.

In other hurricane-related news, Galey said all Red Crossshelters in the county have been closed. He said about 100 evacueesremain in Lincoln County and are staying at local hotels.