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County nears the end of storm cleanup; bulky item drop-off extended

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By Jimmie Earls

It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of May and there’s still debris to be picked up from the January ice storm. But that goes to show just how severe the damage was. The Washington County Fiscal Court met last Monday and discussed ways to finish the clean-up.

State-hired contractors ceased work on May 21 after cutting several roads in the county.

“FEMA is no longer allowing the contractors to work in Washington County and several other counties,” said Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles. “They didn’t get paid for any of the cutting they did, they got paid for what they picked up. Well, they cut several roads for the county; they are done with all the state roads. But these are county roads that they had asked us to assign to them, so we have 13 roads that were cut but not picked up.”

There are about 25 roads in total in the county that still need to be cleaned up. County road department supervisor Albert Wimsatt told the court that his crew could handle the smaller roads where it is harder for state crews to turn their vehicles around. Wimsatt said his department could finish the roads on his list within one week.

The roads in magistrate Hal B. Goode’s district are some of the hardest hit, and will require more time to clean up due to the volume of debris.

“It would take us several weeks to do it ourselves,” Settles added. “The state is helping by sending some trucks. The problem is that they don’t have anything to pick up with, and we have just enough equipment to keep our own trucks going, so extra trucks from the state is not going to help us. Albert was approached by some of the out-of-state contractors who still have equipment in the county. They gave him a price for what they would charge to work for us. We do have the FEMA reimbursement that could be used for this, but that may limit our blacktop. The cost for the loader with a man, insurance and fuel is $100 an hour. That’s just to load our trucks. The cost for self-contained loading units that also include a trailer and hauling would be $165 an hour. The only thing that scares me is that before they were getting paid by the cubic yard. Now they’re getting paid by the hour, and the more hours they work, the more they get paid. It seems expensive, but how expensive is it going to be if we don’t get this cleaned up and get on with the work we’ve got to do?”

“How long will it take if we have them?” asked Goode. “If they bring in this equipment, can they get it done in a week or two?”

“I know we get a lot more clean-up up by taking a backhoe and loading our single-axle dump trucks,” said Wimsatt. “We could take our 14-foot flatbed, put it with this loader and help the situation. I thought they could pretty much get it done within a week if we work them five days for 10 hours a day.”

Settles added, “Albert and I talked about my concerns and there would have to be somebody there to oversee them, some of our people.”

“Well, I think we need to hire that loader and get them out there and get it cleaned up,” said magistrate Billy Riney. “I know it’s not my area, but it needs to be done. Let’s get it over with.”

“What if we made a motion to hire a loader up to $5,000?” asked magistrate Greg Simms. “That would give you a week with the loader. Do you think that would do it?”

“I’ll tell you what, my area is in bad shape,” said Goode.

Simms made a motion to hire a loader up to $10,000 and the court voted unanimously in favor.

In other business

The court voted to extend the cut-off date for the free bulk item drop-off at the county landfill to July 13. This is due mostly to county crews working to finish up the storm debris removal.

“I’d like to recommend we go a little longer. That has really worked out,” said Goode. “It seems like a lot of people have been bringing stuff in.”

The court will revisit the issue at its first meeting in July.

The next fiscal court meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 8 at 9 a.m.