City, FEMA are finally on same page; limb piles should begin to disappear
BERRYVILLE -- Those mountainous piles of limbs stacked throughout Berryville will soon be a thing of the past once a federally-approved pickup program gets underway.
At a special city council meeting Monday morning, Mayor Tim McKinney announced that federal officials had called to say he was right, and he should accept the low bid from an Alabama firm that quoted $24 per cubic yard for limbs chipped and delivered to a city site.
Once the contract is signed and local workers are hired to help with the job, along with retired National Guardsmen who will be employed as temporary monitors, limbs should begin disappearing from view.
McKinney said he'll release a pickup schedule as soon as it's available, which will likely include three passes down each street "to give people time to get their limbs to the curb."
He encouraged everyone to continue to help each other with the task, especially lending a hand to the elderly or disabled who can't do it themselves.
He said city crews will continue to remove any limbs that are obstructing streets or sidewalks by utilizing a chipper that was obtained through a lease/purchase agreement.
Monday's council action came after McKinney and Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) officials came to an agreement after wrangling about reimbursement procedure for some time.
Federal reimbursement guidelines call for a maximum payment of $10 per cubic yard for loose limbs -- not "chipped and delivered," as the job was bid out.
Those same guidelines said grinding or chipping reduces the volume by 75 percent, which, according to McKinney, meant the $24 per cubic yard quote for chipping, once reduced by 75 percent, would figure out to $6 per cubic yard -- well below the $10 federal guideline.
Monday's special meeting was originally scheduled to accept an amended bid from the Alabama firm to meet FEMA's way of thinking, although it would have carried a slightly higher price tag.
Instead, McKinney was happy to announce, "I got word from FEMA this morning. They said I was right."
McKinney said they agreed with his reduction-factor-by-chipping mentality, and told him to accept the bid, which was now considered "a very good price."
As a result of FEMA's ruling, the council approved the original bid from International Equipment Distributors (IED) of Alabama, which was one of nine firms bidding the job. Bid prices ranged from IED's low $24 to $108 from a Missouri firm.
McKinney said IED wants to hire local labors and CDL drivers to help with the work. More information on that will be available soon, he said.
He also noted that IED might set up headquarters in the yellow "Thomas" house, located in Thomas Memorial Park, near Stubbs Grocery.
In addition to employment opportunities for local laborers and drivers, the city will be hiring temporary monitors, as required by FEMA.
Six or more retired National Guardsmen will fill those slots, those who live in the area and who are already trained as monitors, said McKinney. Besides working in the field, they will help out at City Hall as well.
McKinney thanked the council and the public for their patience in this matter.
"This is only the beginning," cautioned Alderman Cindy George who has attended FEMA meetings. "We still have a long ways to go."