Debris pile removal begins

Burnet County Judge James Oakley/Special to The Highlander
Crews began removing a pile of flood-related debris March 6 located on the grounds of Quarry Park in Granite Shoals. Burnet County contracted with the Austin-based Texas Disposal Systems to do the job for approximately $356,000.





By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

The mountain of 2018 flood debris that has been sitting for four months at a Granite Shoals lot should be gone before spring arrives.

Burnet County commissioners on Friday, March 1, awarded a bid for flood debris removal to Austin-based Texas Disposal Systems at $23.75 per cubic yard. The pile is estimated at 15,000 cubic yards and removal is expected to cost $356,250.

Work began at the site Tuesday, March 5, after TDS performed an evaluation and safety assessment of the debris pile the day before. Cleanup is expected to take about 10 to 12 days to complete, Jay Howard of TDS told commissioners Friday.

Commissioners also awarded a bid for debris monitoring to True North Emergency Management. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will allow counties under a disaster declaration to self-monitor debris removal, commissioners and Howard agreed it would be in the best interest of both parties to have a third-party monitor onsite to accurately account for how much material is removed, especially since TDS will not be using a grinder to pulverize debris before removal.

“A monitor can look at a trailer and say, 'That's a hundred-yard trailer and it's about 85 percent full, so that is 85 yards,” Howard said. “We are bound by what the monitor says is in the trailer for each load.”

Commissioners plan to use a $350,000 Texas Department of Agriculture grant to pay for the debris removal. The state has already given the county preapproval to begin paying for debris removal (the grant will reimburse the county for the work).

At one point, commissioners had considered the possibility of having FEMA pay for 75 percent of the debris removal and using the grant to pay for the county's 25 percent match. However, County Services Director Karen Hardin explained the county would have to submit a new grant application to the state if it changed the scope of how it was going to use the grant.

“Word is we were the second entity to apply for a grant with TDA and others have started to apply for this grant as well,” Hardin said. “There is no given that there would still be funds available if we had to reapply for the grant and go to the back of the line. We already have the authority to expend the funds from the state. Reapplying would be risking $350,000 to get an additional $53,000, which does not make sense.”

Development Services Director Herb Darling said the county could still go to FEMA for 75 percent reimbursement of any costs which exceed the $350,000 TDA grant. He also said the monitoring, which could cost between $10,000 to $20,000 depending on how long it takes to remove the debris, would be eligible for 75 percent reimbursement by FEMA as well.

FEMA and Texas Department of Emergency Management officials were to meet with county and local officials at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 6, regarding the disaster declaration and public assistance reimbursement at the Texas AgriLife Extension building in Burnet. This meeting is regarding assistance for public entities only.

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