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FEMA to pay for debris removal

Quick action by Mayor Dexter McLendon saved the City of Greenville some mega bucks following Hurricane Ivan.

That was the word Thursday from Gov. Bob Riley when he announced that as a result of a meeting with FEMA, the federal agency has agreed to cover 100 percent of the cost for debris removal for county and city governments in Butler County.

McLendon and Commission Chairman Jessie McWilliams signed the required contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by midnight, Sunday, Sept. 19.

Generally, FEMA pays 100 percent of all debris removal costs in the 72 hours following natural disasters. After that period, it’s agency policy to pay 75 percent of the costs borne by local governments. In Alabama, the state generally pays 10 percent, and the local governments pay 15 percent.

FEMA regulations state that cities and counties in the disaster area had to sign the agreements within 72 hours of the storm or pay a chunk of cash for the service.

Because local officials met the deadline, the burden for payment rests with the federal government.

McLendon expressed his pleasure about the announcement on Friday and how much money the city will save.

&uot;This saved us a ton of money because the costs would be astounding if we had to pay for all the debris removal,&uot; he said.

&uot;We’re glad and appreciative that they’re doing it.&uot;

McLendon said Greenville and Butler County were in the list of areas to get 100 percent because of quick thinking and reaction. &uot;We jumped on it pretty quick,&uot; he said.

He added he had no clue how much money was saved on the deal, but 100 percent paid is better than paying 15 to 20 percent.

As for the debris removal, he said the best thing the city did was contact the Corps and sign a contract with them.

&uot;The best move we made was to contract with the Corps right off the bat,&uot; he said.

&uot;I knew our job was to get Greenville cleaned up as quickly as possible and I think our crews and the decisions we made have made that happen.&uot;

He said one thing he knows helped the situation was having the city sanitation department worked on Saturday and Sunday after the storm to remove the household waste.

&uot;We picked up the household garbage on Saturday and Sunday and BFI came in and helped us,&uot; he said.

&uot;This cleared that out of the way so that we could concentrate on debris removal. It was the best $5,000 we ever spent.&uot;

Although the word came from the governor’s office, other officials in the county remained skeptical about the announcement; some had not been contacted at all.

Georgiana Mayor Lynn Watson was hopeful the news was true, but had no confirmation that Georgiana was included.

Until then the local recovery effort continues.

&uot;We haven’t talked to FEMA, but we heard something to that effect,&uot; he said.

&uot;I just hope it is true. It will save the taxpayers a lot of money. Right now we will continue going to way we are going. It will be great if they do. For now, we will just keep clicking along.&uot;

In southern town of McKenzie, Mayor Betty Stinson also said they had received no official confirmation.

&uot;Nobody has notified the city,&uot; she said. &uot;We’ve got a lot of damage and it would be nice to get the help. The whole city has had a lot of damage. We have a lot of people working on it now. It would be nice if they did come through.&uot;

Butler County Commission Chairman Jessie McWilliams remained optimistic on the situation and said the county would wait to comment.

As for the debris removal in Greenville, Phillips and Jordan, the company that the Corps contracted to clean up the mess is ready to make a final pass.

That begins throughout the city on Monday morning. Phillips and Jordan Inc., is a Tennessee-based company with a national reputation after its debris

removal work in New York following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

&uot;There are some big stumps and debris that we’ll be picking up and in the area near the country club it will take three or four days,&uot; said Anthony Buttcchi, coordinator of Phillips and Jordan.

&uot;In the other areas we should be done by Wednesday or earlier with the other areas completed by Thursday afternoon.&uot;

He said they have completed a second pass in Greenville and in some areas made a third and fourth pass.

&uot;People keep putting things out and we keep picking them up,&uot; he said.

So what happens to all that debris once it is removed?

Well that is still unclear as well.

&uot;I am terribly embarrassed to say that an official decision has not been made by the Corps yet,&uot; Buttcchi said &uot;We’re leaning toward grinding it. That would leave mulch that can be diverted to a plant and blended with a primary fuel, such as coal, that can be used for energy. That way we’re not losing some of our natural resources.&uot;

So how much debris has Phillips and Jordan removed from the streets of Greenville?

&uot;As of 6:30 p.m. last night (Thursday) Phillips and Jordan had picked up a total 44,451 yards of debris,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s just my group. The private sector has also been bringing in debris as has the state highway department.&uot;