Limb pick-up on hold as mayor, FEMA negotiate

Friday, February 20, 2009
Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney, his back to the camera, met with state and federal officials this week to try to get answers regarding storm cleanup reimbursement funds that are supposed to be forthcoming because of a federal disaster declaration that was issued following damage from a late January ice storm. Pictured with McKinney (clockwise) were: Terry Wood, a Berryville High School graduate, now a certified FEMA monitor who McKinney asked to be at the meeting; Berryville Public Works Director Kirby Murray, a representative with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management; and three FEMA representatives. Anna Mathews / Carroll County News

BERRYVILLE -- Wrangling over apples and oranges has occupied Mayor Tim McKinney's time when trying to find funding for a massive limb pickup effort that awaits him.

City streets throughout Berryville are stacked high with limbs hauled to the curbside following a late January ice storm.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, McKinney said he was prepared to accept a low bid of $24 per cubic yard for chipping and hauling of limbs quoted by an Alabama firm, one of nine outfits bidding.

That was until he began discussions with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials regarding reimbursement guidelines.

Those call for maximum reimbursement of $10 per cubic yard -- for loose limbs, which according to those same guidelines, are greater in volume than chipped.

FEMA's own manual, McKinney pointed out, states "chipping and grinding reduces the volume by 75 percent."

He calculates that to mean the $24 per cubic yard that was quoted for chipping, once reduced by 75 percent, would figure out to $6 per cubic yard -- well within FEMA's $10 per cubic yard guideline.

McKinney said there is still a "misunderstanding" between his way of thinking and FEMA's -- regarding the "reduction factor by chipping," and all further limb removal has been put on hold until it's resolved.

The city has one another option for FEMA reimbursement -- a "forced account" one-time lump sum payment based on a Corp of Engineers estimate using a "black box" to measure stacked limbs around town.

"It's mission critical that we be FEMA eligible," noted Alderman Cindy George.

"If they let us go forward as we were, it would be six to eight weeks before we're done," McKinney said.

He also spoke about the 70-working-hour "window of opportunity" eligible for FEMA reimbursement to cover the cost for immediate storm damage cleanup.

Johnson's Landscaping, Jimmy Jones Excavation and Barrows Excavation crews worked under adverse conditions initially to drag frozen limbs from ice covered roadways, he said, because there was some confusion with city leaders area-wide believing it was a "70-hour window," not "70-working hours."

He said crews working under those icy adverse conditions should be commended for their quick action in reducing the volume during that time.

George said she believed the city should "proceed carefully" with limb pickup because of the huge expense involved should they fail to get state and federal funding help.

McKinney said city crews will be working "some" to remove limbs that are in way, such as those that have tumbled into streets or sidewalks, "now that we have a chipper."

The chipper he was referring to was approved by the council Tuesday night.

Ordinance 893, passed on all three readings with an emergency clause, waived competitive bidding on the lease/purchase of a 2008 Morbark M15 chipper.

McKinney said "leasing is a reimbursable expense" but not a purchase. Because of that, the city entered into a six-month lease/purchase agreement for the unit, which would cost $37,000 if purchased outright.

Under the lease/purchase agreement, the city will pay an additional $327, but will have the option of assuming ownership at the end of six months.

He also noted that a chipper purchase was in this year's budget.

On a separate note, McKinney said he met with a state highway official at the city's Pension Mountain Johnson Spring site where trails will be built with highway department grant funding.

He said it looked like a nuclear bomb hit the top of Pension Mountain, which looked like "ground zero," and during his recent travels, he hadn't seen any place "worse than Berryville."

In other business, the council accepted the lone bid from Carroll County Stone for base material. The cost is about the same as last year, and it is the only quarry around.

McKinney was given the go-ahead to begin negotiations with the top three contenders considered for this year's small project engineering services. They include Gray Rock Consulting, Mathis, Carter and Associates, and McClelland Consulting Engineers. Others interested were Morrison Shipley and CEI Engineering Associates.

Construction equipment services contracts were awarded. They are the same as last year with Humbard Backhoe and Hauling lined out for the small jobs, and Jimmy Jones Excavation handling the big jobs. "We'll use them as best suited for the job," McKinney explained.

The council's next regular meeting is set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 3 at City Hall.

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