Debris removal set to begin in Leakesville, still likely a few weeks away elsewhere in the county
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Supervisors mulling over bids from multiple debris contractors
By RUSSELL TURNER
Officials in Leakesville say residents should soon begin seeing progress on Hurricane Zeta debris removal efforts. Meanwhile, Greene County residents growing weary of seeing storm debris along the county roadways will need to muster a little more patience as county leaders continue to evaluate their options.
County supervisors agreed to postpone awarding the contract for storm debris collection and disposal for one more week, setting 1 p.m. next Monday, Feb. 8, as the date and time for making their final decision. The postponement came at the request of county engineer Jason Lamb, of The Walker Associates, who asked for the extension to continue going through the complex proposals from contractors in order to make the best possible recommendation to the board.
“This is turning out to be an incredibly competitive exercise across the board,” Lamb told supervisors Monday morning at their regular first-of-the-month meeting. “I was hopeful we could do something today, but there are just so many moving parts to this bid process.”
“I am not ready to make a recommendation to the board concerning the awarding of the contract (for debris removal) today. I am still working through some due diligence items on all of the bids. Some of the bids had flags on them that were announced during the bid opening process.
The additional time, Lamb said, will allow for a more thorough analysis of the bid data for him and supervisors Gary Fairley and Wayne Barrow, who along with Lamb have been tasked with making a recommendation to the full board for approval.
Supervisors accepted and opened bids from 12 interested contractors to collect the debris, shred or burn it and haul the chipped vegetation or fire ash to an appropriate landfill last Thursday morning. Two of those contractors are local businesses, but only one of them remains in consideration. Bruce Dueitt and Company is one of 10 vendors still being considered, while Three Chopped Way, a company owned and operated by former supervisor Jerry Mills and his wife Sandra, was among two contractors whose bids were rejected due to incomplete or irregular bid submissions.
Lamb told supervisors that burning of the debris by the eventual contract winner would be the most cost-effective means of dealing with the 80-120 cubic tons of vegetative debris estimated across the county, despite the fact that only one of the three previously-identified collection sites appears to meet the criteria for burning. That is the Silver Hill site located on 16th Section land north of Leakesville off Old Avery Road. The other two sites — the rubbish pit across High School Road from the Dist. 1 barn and one located off Old Hwy. 63 in Dist. Four — are both too close to structures to earn permit approval from DEQ. Debris hauled to either of those sites would have to be chipped / shredded and hauled to a landfill designated for that type of vegetative debris (in Jackson or Forrest counties).
Lamb said that despite that issue, he believes concerns over the additional costs associated with the greater distance for hauling the debris will ultimately be outweighed by the difference in pricing for hauling and disposing of ash, compared to the chipped material.
Lamb said he was expecting permitting for the Silver Hill site to be approved and that he recommended supervisors move forward with working out an agreement with the county school district for use of the site for burning.
The dollar amount submitted by contractors will account for roughly 40 percent of the formula for choosing the contract winner. Experience, capacity to do the job, ability to mobilize and begin the process are also factors to be considered.
Lamb told supervisors that it will likely be 2-3 weeks before the effort is in full swing. However, he said there was a good possibility that dangerous tree removal may be the first activity residents see in the area as that work could possibly begin even as contractors are setting up the monitoring and collection areas and mobilizing their equipment and crews for debris collection and transport.
The county is on the hook for 12.5 percent of the total cost, while the federal government foots the bill for the balance under the presidential disaster declaration. Lamb said supervisors should consider the factors carefully so they can justify their decision to federal authorities, particularly if they decide the “best” bid for the county is different from the “lowest” monetary bid submitted.
“There is diligence required to weigh that appropriately,” Lamb cautioned. “But, because of the competitiveness of the bids, there is reason for me to believe, if we can hold the course we are on, then we could end up at under $2-milllion (total.”
He cautioned that would change, obviously, if the actual debris volume was considerably higher than the estimates. He added that a couple hundred thousand dollars of the total cost will come from the removal of hazardous trees in the county. Currently over 4,000 trees have been tagged in the storm area for removal or trimming.
“Not at all the majority of the project costs, the hazardous tree costs do get on up there,” he said.
Supervisors are working with the current monitoring contractor and Lamb to assess any trees that supervisors deem questionable and may wish to remove from the list.
Officials with the Town of Leakesville said Tuesday they expected debris collection to begin in the town incorporated limits as early as this Thursday and no later than Monday. Holliday Construction of Florence was awarded that contract.
Dist. Two Supervisor Elton Clark said what debris removal that was required in State Line has already been performed. The debris removal for McLain will be handled under the county contract with town officials responsible for the local portion of the costs.