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The Paris City Council on Monday approved the hiring of private contractors to speed up the process of cleaning away the brush and tree limbs that line virtually every street in Paris as a result of last month’s devastating ice storm.
“We don’t have enough people to do this by ourselves in a timely manner,” City Manager John Godwin told the council.
“Now, we can do it eventually, but by eventually I mean get it done by next summer or next Christmas or something like that,” he said.
Godwin asked the council to OK taking $200,000 out of reserves so the city can put on additional temporary help, rent more equipment, and employ private local contractors who are equipped to do the job more quickly.
The council went him one better — authorizing $250,000.
Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in Paris on Thursday of last week and estimated cleanup costs at $1.5 million.
“That’s way too low,” Godwin said, noting that FEMA officials drove down several streets and estimated an average of 350 cubic yards of brush and limbs per mile.
The city has 174 miles of streets, and at an removal cost of $20 per cubic yard “that comes out of $1.2 million, give or take, and we’ve spent another $300,000, so that’s where they got their $1.5 million,” Godwin said.
“I believe that’s too low because most of the streets have more than 350 cubic yards, and there are so many people that haven’t even touched stuff yet. We think it’s well in excess of $1.2 million,” he said.
Hopefully, Godwin said, FEMA will reimburse the city for costs spent cleaning up after the storm.
Mayor AJ Hashmi said he had a meeting scheduled for today with officials from the state jail in Bonham about the possibility of using prisoners to help with Paris’ storm cleanup.
The city manager said he would begin renting more equipment and putting on more help effective today, and also begin the possibility of putting out bids for private contractors to take on projects of $50,000 or more.
Godwin said it’s important to remember that the city has been using workers from throughout its departments to pick up the debris.
These are workers that have other jobs they ordinarily would be doing, so other duties are being neglected. That can’t continue indefinitely, the manager said.
“Our street guys need to get on the streets once the weather starts to get a little warmer. And our parks folks have softball games coming up fairly soon, and we need to clean out ditches, because winter time is when our parks guys are cleaning out ditches,” Godwin said.
“They haven’t been able to do that because they’ve been working on this. And on and on and on. So ultimately, we need to be able to bring in additional people to handle the storm cleanup.”
“If you give us the go-ahead, we’ll hire, starting as soon as tomorrow, additional crews, we’ll rent additional equipment, we’ll hire temporary folks as well. And while we’re doing that, we’ll also issue Requests for Proposals and perhaps issue bids so that in case we do need to exceed $50,000 — and we almost certainly will, in several areas.”
Godwin also asked and obtained permission to waive for the time being a policy allowing only residents who can produce a water bill or driver’s license to drop off trash or debris at drop-off sites or the city compost site.
Until the end of January, at the least, Godwin said he would like to allow any local person acting on behalf of a resident to drop off trailer loads or pickup loads.
“I just don’t want to discourage anybody who lives inside our city limits and they’re letting their grandson or next door neighbor or a kid from church helping out, or a private contractor . It’s contrary to our policy, but we want to encourage our residents to get the brush and limbs off their property,” the manager said.
The council also told the manager to waive the $25 permit to turn water on or off because of frozen pipes as they thaw out.
Councilwoman Sue Lancaster said the city was getting more than 100 calls a day because of broken pipes.
“Twenty-five dollars may not be much, but it’s just one more expense our residents are having to bear. It just seems like it is dumping on people who already had all the problems they can handle,” Lancaster said.
“To have to pay for cutting and gathering all those limbs and get them hauled off, only to discover not only to they have all these broken trees, they also had pipes broken.”
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra