County does have ability to remove disaster-related debris from private property
Published 8:22 am Thursday, December 26, 2019
In their final meeting as a board, the Warren County Board of Supervisors decided to “take under advisement” the plan to place dumpsters in the Eagle Lake community to allow county crews to remove debris created by the demolition of 24 homes.
The proposal would have placed 30-yard dumpsters in the area so crews could pick up debris from the county rights of way and place them in the dumpsters. This set-up would have allowed crews to pick up debris faster without having to make multiple, round trips to the landfill.
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The problem is the plan came with a significant cost.
During a special called meeting Monday, county purchasing agent Tonga Vinson unveiled bids for the dumpster service. Of the three presented, the lowest came from the Vicksburg Warren County Landfill at $450 per dumpster.
In a meeting on Dec. 16, Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer gave supervisors an update of the work, saying Team Rubicon had demolished 24 homes, creating 246,896 cubic feet of debris, or the equivalent of 305 30-yard dumpsters. With that estimate in hand and the lowest bid, the estimated cost of the dumpsters would be $137,250.
Other than the cost, one of the other reasons for delaying the decision was the question as to whether the debris was all on the county rights of way and the fact that the county was not allowed to go onto private property for work.
But, in information provided by county attorney Blake Teller Tuesday, there are provisions that would allow the county to go onto private property — if needed — to remove the debris.
“The Attorney General, citing 33-15-49 and related statutes, says it can be done in emergency situations created by natural disasters, such as the flood we experienced this past year,” Teller said. “Indeed, this flood was declared a disaster by the feds and the state, as well as the county. This debris removal is directly related to this disaster.”
Any hopes of the county getting reimbursed by federal or state agencies for debris removal are non-existent due to the timing of the home demolitions.
The county had been under an emergency declaration through the end of October. Had the work been done before the end of October, the county could have received some — if not all — reimbursement for the work. Since the demolition was completed in November and December, and the hauling of the debris has yet to happen, it appears the county will bear the full burden of the removal.