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City, county opt-out of state debris clean-up

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Participation would be too costly, local officials say

By Stephen Lega

The state recently announced its bid-letting on state clean-up for ice storm debris, but local officials have said that, at least for now, they will opt out of participating in state contracts. Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw and Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly both indicated the cost of participating in the state contract could be too high. The state has proposed to pay the up-front costs of the clean-up by using money generated by the state fuel tax.

"That's used to repave streets and fix potholes," Crenshaw said.

The city is projected to receive approximately $65,700 from the state this fiscal year for its municipal road aid fund. The county is projected to receive approximately $812,000 for secondary roads. If that money is spent now, there won't be any money to complete maintenance and repairs this summer, Mattingly said.

At the same time, the actual cost of the clean-up remains uncertain, although Mattingly said he hoped the county would have more concrete figures in time for the fiscal court meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19.

"We're still not sure of what the costs or the volume might be," he said.

Mattingly provided a copy of a spreadsheet from the transportation cabinet that showed contractors would be paid $5.55 per cubic yard of debris picked up in the county. The prices for "picking and hauling" limbs, not for limbs that have been fed through a wood chipper. The difference is important. According to Mattingly, it takes approximately four cubic yards of limbs to make one cubic yard of chipped debris.

Local officials aren't the only people feeling uncertain about the state contract, however. Eight contractors submitted bids to clean-up Marion County, but one of them chose not to attend a meeting Saturday with transportation cabinet officials. Mattingly said it was his understanding that that one company would be removed from consideration for the clean-up effort.

At the same time, Mattingly said some of the contractors who attended the meeting were wondering if they could withdraw. The state contract was intended to be an all-inclusive contract, which meant the contractors would not receive additional fees for leaners (trees that were weakened by the storm and may fall), hangers (limbs that had fallen, but did not fall all the way to the ground, also known as "widow makers"), stumps or mileage (how far they had to haul limbs after filling a truck).

"Contractors were scratching their heads to see if they could get out of this Saturday morning," Mattingly said.

While Marion County and the City of Lebanon have opted out of the state contract at this time, Mattingly said the county could participate if it decides the contract would be worth the cost after the estimated costs become better defined.

FEMA's role

A major disaster has been declared in 93 Kentucky counties (including Marion) in the aftermath of the Jan. 27 ice storm. FEMA may pay up to 75 percent of the costs of the debris removal related to the storm because of the major disaster declaration, according to Susan Solomon, a FEMA public information officer.

Based on interviews with local officials, they are understanding that to mean they should document their expenses and apply for a reimbursement from FEMA.

"FEMA will probably reimburse for overtime and equipment costs associated with debris removal," Lebanon City Administrator John Thomas said. "We're documenting those costs we feel may be eligible for reimbursement."

Solomon added that counties and cities may also be eligible to apply for hazard mitigation grants, which could cover up to 75 percent of the costs of projects intended to reduce the long-term risks to life and property from natural disasters.

There has been some discussion about purchasing generators for the water treatment plant, the sewer plant and booster pumps in the county. It's possible local governments could apply for federal funds to assist with these expenses, although there is no guarantee they would be approved.

In the meantime, Gov. Steve Beshear has submitted a request for 100 percent assistance from FEMA for costs incurred during the first seven days following the storm.

"That has not been decided as of yet," Solomon said.

South Carolina Baptists return home

The Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Team from 11 South Carolina units has returned home. Steve Chrisman, the on-site coordinator for the disaster relief teams, said 68 members of the South Carolina team came to Marion County in the aftermath of the ice storm. While here, they helped clean up more than 150 yards.

The South Carolina disaster relief team members concluded their work Feb. 11 with a meal and prayer service at Centre Square, where several team members slept during their time here.

Crenshaw and Mattingly attended their final meal to express their gratitude for the disaster relief team members' work in the community. Crenshaw also presented a proclamation declaring Feb. 11 as South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief Team Day in Lebanon. During a short devotional service, Ron Taylor of Pee Dee Baptist Association said other denominations may have more members or more resources than Southern Baptists, "but nobody's got more big trucks, trailers and chainsaws."

  Update: Debris Removal

Despite the efforts of private individuals, city and county workers and the Southern Baptists, much debris still remains in and throughout the county. The county transfer station is closed as Cox Interior's of Campbellsville is chipping the accumulated debris for use in its wood-burning generator. In the meantime, a second staging area has been established in Lebanon at the corner of Mercer and Taylor avenues. City Administrator John Thomas said the staging area will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Debris disposal in Lebanon:

- Residents may take debris to the staging area, or they may place debris curbside.

- Residents who leave their debris on the curb should keep it out of the way of the road, sidewalk and water meters. City crews will pick up debris as they are able, according to Mayor Gary Crenshaw.

In the rest of the county: - Residents may take debris to the staging area.

- Residents in more rural parts of the county may be eligible to dispose of limbs with a controlled burn. Before doing a controlled burn, residents should notify their fire departments by calling the Lebanon Police Department at (270) 692-2121. Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly added that the county would prefer for residents to take waste to the staging area if possible. Mattingly added that county crews have focused their clean-up in problem areas, such as where collected debris could create a potential flood hazard.

He said Monday that he believed debris would be removed from the right-of-way on state roads, although he encouraged county residents to dispose of the waste themselves when possible. He added county crews will be able to spend more time making road repairs and repaving this summer if residents help dispose of debris themselves.