by David Anderson
Kinston Free Press
Kinston officials expect it will take about four weeks to clean up the amount of debris left by Hurricane Irene in the city.
At an estimated 100,000 cubic yards, or 20,000 tons, of vegetative and construction waste, it is twice the amount of debris left by Hurricane Floyd 12 years ago.
“It is going to be a slow, long process,” Interim City Manager Bill Ellis said. “We know it’s going to be aggravating because there’s more debris than we’ve ever had in our streets and we’re looking at ways to make it faster and better. We have started now and cleared several blocks but we have a long way to go.”
Ellis said the city has been divided into 12 equal sections, or “quadrants,” with six crews from local contractors and the Unified Recovery Group of Alabama working in those sections.
The manager said there is enough waste for 3,334 trips to the county landfill, and it could take 4,168 man-hours to complete all of the trips.
“As we enter into our recovery period we realize people are hurting and they need our help, and we’re pledging to continue to be there and do what it takes to help our citizens,” Ellis stated during a City Council meeting Tuesday.
The storm will cost the city nearly $4 million to cover damage to the electrical system, debris removal, landfill fees, overtime for police, fire and other employees and repairs to city buildings and infrastructure.
The debris removal alone could cost $1 million, Ellis said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of the city’s costs, which still leaves Kinston officials with $1 million in expenses to cover.
Mayor B.J. Murphy has sent letters to Gov. Bev Perdue and area legislators asking for state assistance to cover the remaining 25 percent.
Ellis said the state has traditionally “made the cities whole,” but the funds are not in the state budget this year, so Murphy’s letter asks the governor to put the money for local governments back in the budget.
Catherine Gwynn, the city’s acting finance officer, told council members the money would have to come from the general fund balance, which is currently at $3.6 million, or 21 percent.
She said if the city had to make a $1 million withdrawal from fund balance, it could be “disastrous.”
“I applaud you, B.J., for writing that letter,” Gwynn said. “We’re not living in extravagance here.”
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.