Saturday, January 05, 2013

TOP STORY >> Storm debris lingers

Leader staff writer

Picking up downed trees and limbs from the Christmas snowstorm will keep the Jacksonville and Sherwood sanitation departments busy for weeks to come.

Both cities pick up yard waste (limbs, leaves and downed trees cut into reasonable lengths) once a week normally, but right now they are spending three to four days a week to cover just one day’s worth of debris.

The storm has kept Cabot busy too, but not to the degree of Jacksonville and Sherwood.

At the Jacksonville council meeting Thursday night, Public Works Director Jim Oakley called the Christmas storm a challenge. “We’ve still got so much debris out there, and we are working from dusk to dawn and on Saturdays to pick it all up,” he said.

Jacksonville has received special permission from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to burn the majority of the debris, saving the city a lot on landfill charges.

In Jacksonville, yard waste is supposed to be picked up the same day as garbage and trash, while in Sherwood, the yard waste pickup runs a day behind the garbage service.

Oakley said his crews spent a week picking up limbs and tree trunks from just the Monday route alone. “We must have picked up about 1,200 cubic yards of debris,” he said.

Oakley added that his crews, which are working Saturdays, are on Tuesday’s lawn waste route and have already surpassed the Monday totals. He said Tuesday’s route has more trees than the Wednesday and Thursday routes, but once his crews get their routes done, he’ll know there may be plenty more debris to pick up.

“By the time we get back to Monday again, residents will have had a chance to pull all the downed limbs out of their backyards for us,” Oakley said.

He figures it will take about three weeks, if there’s good weather, to get back to a normal pickup schedule. “We just need everyone to hang in there with us for now,” Oakley said.

Brian Galloway, Sherwood’s public works director, said his city is in the same situation.

“It’s been a week since the storm, and we are only about a third of the way through town,” he said. “There’s still a lot of debris that we need to clear from just city property,” he said.

Galloway said his crews pulled 24-hour shifts during the height of the storm that dropped a layer of ice before bringing in 10 inches of snow. Sherwood crews were out early Christmas Day sanding, plowing and getting trees and limbs out of the roadway.

“I’m not sure how much sand and salt we used,” explained Galloway. “We’ve just been so busy, but I did check our bins and make sure we still have enough if another storm rolls in and we do.”

Oakley said his crews worked around the clock during the storm and used about 10 tons of salt and 200 tons of sand. “But we spent most of our time just clearing limbs out of the roadway,” he said.

Brian Boroughs, head of public works in Cabot, said about 30 tons of sand was spread on the streets during the first 24 hours of the storm.

He’s keeping up with his workers’ hours and other expenses, but all the bills for the cleanup are not yet in.

Progressive Waste Solutions, formerly IESI, has been removing many of the piles of limbs as part of its contract for waste collection in Cabot and that is holding costs down, he said.

Mayor Bill Cypert said he estimates the cost of the cleanup at $15,000 to $20,000.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a disaster and 1 being no damage, Cabot’s damage is about 3.5, Cypert said.

Regular garbage collection would have been a day late because of Christmas, but the storm made it two days late, Boroughs said. It also ran late this week because of New Year’s Day. But it should be back on schedule next week.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher is still totaling up damage costs. “I hope to have a figure to present next week. I’m hopeful we’ll get some reimbursement from the feds since Gov. Beebe declared the state a disaster after the storm rolled through,” Fletcher said.