Connie Greenlee, like many Shawnee and Bethel area residents affected by the tornadoes, is ready for everyday life to get back to normal. And like most people, that means seeing all the debris — a reminder of all the devastation that's been piling up — being gone for good.
Pottawatomie County commissioners on Thursday awarded a bid for storm debris removal in county areas, so work should begin soon to remove what they anticipate is about 30,000 cubic yards of waste. City of Shawnee contractors are beginning some clean-up routes today.
Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said the city's debris removal will begin today in the city-limit areas of Shawnee Twin Lakes.
"We'll begin removal around Lake No. 1," Lynch said, adding they're only picking up debris that was caused by the storm.
He said contractors are going to push toward getting a first pass done to pick up debris that's already out.
After that, they'll take a break to allow residents time to get any remaining debris out to the right-of-way by July 7 so a second round of pickups can be done.
Much of the debris currently out could be a mixture of both vegetative and construction debris from damaged homes, Lynch said, which will be picked up. But Lynch asks residents to separate vegetative debris from construction debris on anything else being placed out for pickup.
For those residents who just have a few tree limbs, they also can take those to the city's staging area on Homer Lane, where it will eventually be burned, Lynch said.
For those county residents with tornado and storm debris, work will begin soon now that a contractor has been selected.
The Board of Pottawatomie County Commissioners opened bids at a special meeting Thursday.
At first, County Commissioner Melissa Dennis wanted to hold off on awarding bids until Monday's regular meeting so all could be reviewed.
"Any hasty decision is a bad decision, in my opinion," she said.
But Commissioner Randy Thomas, whose district had the most damage, was eager to get moving, adding he didn't want to do anything hastily either, but he didn't want to waste another four days in the process.
Since FEMA, along with state emergency management officials were present, along with Lynch, the commissioners asked them to review the bids. After they said all bids were in order, the group recommended the low bid be awarded to DRC Emergency Services, Mobile, Ala.
The board said the company has seven days to send in all required paperwork so a work schedule can begin.
The county's bid calls for the contractor to receive $4.75 for every cubic yard of burnable debris they collect, then $12 for every cubic yard of non-burnable debris. The bid also calls for them to be paid for removal of stumps in the right-of-way, with prices varying on size.
Page 2 of 2 - Dennis said there will be monitors in place to track the amount of debris that is being picked up. They anticipate there's about 11,000 cubic yards in Dennis' district and about 15,000 cubic yards in Thomas' district.
The group said the debris that is being picked up must be for event-generated debris from the storms occurring from May 19-31, meaning they are only picking up debris from the storm path areas.
Those who have already stacked vegetative and construction debris together are okay for now, but anything else added to rights-of-way needs to be separated into different piles — one for tree limbs and such and another for any construction-type debris, Dennis said.
Dennis, who said it has taken time to get the removal bids in place, said it has been a strict process because of the requirement for disaster-related reimbursement.
FEMA is expected to pay about 80 percent of the clean up costs, the state of Oklahoma about 12.5 percent, and the county the remaining 7.5 percent, she said.
A lot of debris has been removed in some areas already thanks to ODOT and countless volunteers and other organizations, the group discussed.
For Greenlee, who said volunteers stacked up much of their tree limb debris behind their home for later burning, said they've had other debris removed but repair work is continuing. Her neighbors along Garrett's Lake Road all have debris, most of it at curbside, so she'll be glad when that is picked up as well. And while it seems the clean up has moved as a "snail's pace," Greenlee said she knows it's because of all the necessary steps involved.
All of the bids for the county clean up were submitted from out-of-state companies, which was expected.
Dennis said because of FEMA involvement in reimbursing the county because of the disaster, there were 13 specific requirements that had to be met.
Any debris that can't be burned will be disposed of in either Oklahoma City or Prague landfills, the board discussed.
More information about the county's pick up dates and time frames is expected in the next week.
Watch for updates.