Richmond County Commission gets update on Augusta's storm debris removal effort

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 10:37 PM
Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 1:54 AM
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Debris removal firm AshBritt Environmental has hauled more than 82,000 cubic yards of winter storm debris in the seven days since the firm started operations in Augusta on Feb. 26, and has at least 117,000 cubic yards to go, said Ralph Natale, director of operations for the monitoring firm hired to oversee storm cleanup.

In an update to Augusta commissioners on the debris removal effort, Natale, of Leidos, Inc., said the collection so far is part of a “first pass,” intended to touch every household, and it is nearing completion.

The city hired AshBritt and Leidos Feb. 24 in an emergency procurement based on the firms’ existing contracts with Chatham and Liberty counties at an estimated cost of $8.6 million, with the expectation the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse as much as 85 percent of the cost.

The firm’s efforts so far are in addition to some 100,000 cubic yards of trees, limbs and other organic debris the city Engineering department, several contracted companies and residents had already removed to disposal areas since the winter storm dumped an unprecedented inch of ice on the area Feb. 11-13.

Tuesday, AshBritt had 57 hauling containers and 46 cutting crews across the city, Natale said. Leidos, which monitors the debris removal to ensure it meets FEMA guidelines, has hired 183 local workers, he said.

The cutting crews had removed some 7,000 hazardous limbs as of Tuesday, he said.

Natale said AshBritt is focusing its efforts on the areas hardest-hit but maintains a presence in all of six designated zones that span Augusta-Richmond County.

“There are trucks in every zone throughout the city,” he said.

According to a debris removal status chart, the most cubic yards, more than 9,000, were removed from Zone 1, an area between Washington Road and Gordon Highway, as of Monday.

The firms haven’t provided a schedule of when residents can expect visits from the haulers or cutting crews, but expect to complete the first pass in a week or so, he said. Natale pointed commissioners to a Web site where they could view the position of trucks and activity as it was happening.

Using multiple phases is an industry standard, he said. After the first pass, residents with more debris can move it to the curb for a second pass. The dates of a third and final pass will be announced, he said.

Natale said he expected the firms’ entire cleanup effort to take three to four weeks, while inevitable FEMA auditing and followup will take “years and years.”

“We’ve got the golf tournament coming in a couple of weeks, so thank you for the update,” said Commissioner Joe Jackson. The week of the Masters Tournament starts April 6.

After the update, Com­missioner Marion Williams turned the discussion to how AshBritt and Leidos were selected.

Unlike neighboring Columbia and Aiken counties, Richmond had no “pre-positioned,” competitively bid debris removal contracts in place to handle the amount of debris associated with a disaster.

General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said the commission’s adoption last week of two resolutions declaring an emergency in Augusta and authorizing the use of piggybacked contracts from Chatham and Liberty was legal and necessary “because of the nature of the debris and how widespread it was” to ensure safety of the public.

FEMA frowns on “piggybacking” existing contracts and tends to audit debris removal efforts extensively because of the possibility for fraud. FEMA “will look at whether our procurement code was followed, and whether the pricing was reasonable,” MacKenzie said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett added that he hoped the same level of effort would be placed on the storm in late April – that is, after the Masters.

“I have no problem with what has been done. It still is a massive job,” he said.

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whozit 03/05/14 - 02:48 am

It is interesting how some of the folks who were so adamantly against FEMA aid to the Northeast following Sandy see absolutely no problem in asking for FEMA funding to clean up after the ice storm. Guess it depends on whose ox is being gored, eh?

iaaffg 03/05/14 - 05:53 am
i don't even see why fema had

i don't even see why fema had to come to town. there's a real simple solution to cleaning up the mess in your yard: pile it, burn it, period. no need for a six gazillion dollar bill...fema is just another way for lazy people to get their hands on money they think is 'free'. back in the day when these natural 'disasters' happened, people put their elbow grease on and did the work themselves. now we are such a nation of pansies and milquetoasts, as soon as some ice hits, we are suddenly helpless as kittens and scream for the government to come help, come help! as if the government is a fairy godmother or the good witch of oz and can make all well again. our forefathers and foremothers are laughing in their graves at us and also wondering: how did our descendants get to be such a bunch of wimps? good thing this current crop of humans don't have to go pioneer anywhere and make a new life in a new world, they'd be dead in two days.

InChristLove 03/05/14 - 06:26 am
Odd...I saw a debris truck

Odd...I saw a debris truck come through our neighborhood and ride right back out and didn't touch the first pile. I saw him drive in and thought, thank you, just to watch him drive down our street into a circle and back out again. Never picked up a single load.

Junket103 03/05/14 - 07:58 am
Defies Logic

At times I wonder if a cable company is running this cleanup effort. There appears to be no systematic, logical process. Streets seem to be picked at random and for no apparent reason. Some streets have been picked up more than once, while others have remained untouched. There have been small, short, residential streets that have been picked up, while nearby busier streets with blocked sidewalks remain piled up. The blocked sidewalks are particularly problematic because pedestrians are now walking or running in the busy streets increasing the danger. If they go into a neighborhood clean up each street in the neighborhood. Don't just clean one street then leave to clean another non essential street in another neighborhood. By now there should be a schedule of where these crews are and which neighborhoods they are targeting. The lack of information from the County and the news media is somewhat appalling, unless a cable company is organizing this effort. The AC should run a daily story on this cleanup effort and provide as much detail and information as is spent on exposing the CC Tax Commisssioner's shenanigans. This would help keep fraud and mismanagement of the cleanup to a minimum.

jimmymac 03/05/14 - 09:09 am

Why on earth are they not chipping the wood? It would seem to be a lot more efficient way of dealing with yards and yards of trees and branches. The wood chips could be dumped in piles and people could at least use them for mulch. The paper mills pay to clear cut forests to get wood so why aren't they using the storm debris? This is a prime example of waste when government gets involved.

Butterman 03/05/14 - 11:38 am
I Agree Whozit

Interesting how in this case "conservatives" in Georgia are all for free FEMA money from the Feds but are against taking fed money for medicaid expansion.
Points 03/05/14 - 12:27 pm
Bunyan is doing a terrible job. They leave most of the trash.

They leave most of the storm trash right in the street. They are awful.

Fiat_Lux 03/05/14 - 02:09 pm
Of COURSE he did. It's his only agenda item. Ever.

"After the update, Com­missioner Marion Williams turned the discussion to how AshBritt and Leidos were selected."

Greengolf 03/05/14 - 02:54 pm
Cut down a huge limb and just left it on the sidewalk.

i guess this is how they touched our house. Did not pick up a limb otherwise.

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