For payment, county must close holes holding debris from Katrina|[08/22/2008]

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2008

A tally shows Warren County road crews buried 11,806 cubic yards of trees and limbs at four private sites in the days following Hurricane Katrina’s path through central Mississippi three years ago, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

The totals were relayed to county supervisors Thursday after MEMA and state environmental officials met with County Administrator John Smith earlier in the week.

Reimbursements owed to the county will arrive only if the local government pays to “close out” the areas in which the refuse was disposed of, Smith said. Those sites were on private land along Smith Road, Whatley Road, Warriors Trail and U.S. 80.

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About $16,000 in funds arrived from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the 2005 storm’s aftermath, mostly derived from overtime paid to road department employees. Amounts still owed the county total $174,735.83.

State officials have indicated the sites would have met criteria for reimbursement only if they had been approved landfills. Cleanup costs, if supervisors choose to follow through to break about even on the matter, must be determined through further talks with the state.

“When we have dirt, trucks or men available, we’ll get it done,” said District 5 Supervisor Richard George, board president.

Forty-nine counties, including Warren, were declared federal disaster areas after the storm, triggering eligibility for federal reimbursement for storm-related costs to individuals and local government.

At the time the county applied for reimbursement programs available to local government for storm cleanup costs, supervisors said any incoming money would be returned to the department from which the expense originated.

Road department spending on fuel will increase by $165,000 in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, expected to include a 3.05-mill property tax increase to be adopted Sept. 2. The majority of the hike is a 2.7-mill rise in the road fund.