Biloxi to wrap debris-removal efforts on Saturday

The City of Biloxi has hauled away about 23,000 cubic yards of debris from Hurricane Gustav, and crews will be working through the end of the day Saturday picking up the remnants.

“At the outset, we said that we thought there was about 25,000 cubic yards, so we think we’re right on track,” said Mayor A.J. Holloway. “End of the day Saturday will be the last of the debris removal, but we don’t want people to wait until Saturday to move it. We want them to move storm debris out to the curb now so our crews can get it between now and Saturday.”

If you’re moved debris to the curbside or are aware of a pile in your neighborhood, e-mail or call 374-1211 with the location, size and type of debris.

The city’s “final” debris sweep was actually more than a week ago, but Holloway and Public Works Director Richard Sullivan requested the city’s debris contractors to make one last haul.

At the height of debris efforts, Biloxi had as many as seven debris teams picking up debris as many as seven days a week in the days and weeks after the Sept. 1 storm, according to Jonathan Kiser, who coordinates debris removal efforts in Biloxi.

Having a plan should pay off for city

“We were able to get a pretty good price for debris removal – about $11.85 a cubic yard, which is about $4 a yard cheaper than Katrina,” Holloway said. “It’s a supply-and-demand issue. Since we began working on a plan before the storm, what FEMA calls a pre-event contract, we were able to put out specs in a competitive environment and get some good numbers. The contractors had some time to work on their proposals and fine tune the numbers, which benefits the taxpayers.”

The Gustav debris contract alone is expected to cost more than $300,000 – far shy of the $80 million cost of Katrina debris removal – and Holloway expects the city to earn a higher percentage of reimbursement from the federal government for having a FEMA-approved debris plan.

The federal government typically reimburses local governments 75 percent of the expense of storm-debris removal, but as a result of having approved contracts in place before the storm, the city anticipates earning an additional 5 percent reimbursement, with the remaining 20 percent expense shared by the city and state.

As part of its storm plan, Biloxi had four FEMA-approved contracts already in place when Hurricane Gustav made landfall: a 70-hour push contract with Storm Reconstruction Services, a Mobile firm that would have cleared debris from major roadways in the first 70 hours after a storm; with Crowder Gulf, for debris removal; with Earth Consulting Group, the firm that would oversee compliance with MDEQ rules for dealing with debris containing asbestos; and with Neel-Schaffer, for monitoring of the city’s debris removal efforts.