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Post Harvey debris pickup is an ongoing issue

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader

Pinehurst City Administrator Robbie Hood confirmed for the city council, during the Tuesday evening meeting, that all expenses incurred by the city in response to Hurricane Harvey have been input in the FEMA grant portal.

“There is no longer an option to input anything more for reimbursement by FEMA,” Hood said. “That ship has sailed.”

Councilman T.W. Permenter expressed concerns for citizens that have just now begun to tear out storm debris from their homes.

“What are they supposed to do?” Permenter asked. “Did we jump the gun and go too fast applying for FEMA assistance?”

Hood confirmed the City acted appropriately within the FEMA mandated 60-day time line for capturing storm related reimbursement costs.

“Now, if the council wants to take each citizen’s situation on a case-by-case basis, that is certainly the prerogative of the council and I would support that wholeheartedly,” Hood said.

After further discussion, the council agreed not only is new construction debris sole responsibility of the contractor to remove and will not be picked up by the city, but the citizen who is removing original storm related debris should contact City Hall and have their situation reviewed.

“On a case-by-case basis,” Hood said, “we will inspect the debris pile and determine the best course of action going forward.”

Debbie Cormier, city secretary, said there may be a $16 per cubic yard charge for the city to haul the original storm debris away.

“The citizen should call City Hall first for a determination on that,” Cormier said.

Regarding the new schedule to have unlimited bulk items picked up curbside on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month, Public Works Director John Toney emphasized the need for citizens to call his office to alert them of the need for pickup.

Toney can be reached at 337-304-4377 or by dialing the main City Hall number at 886-3873 Monday through Friday.

Tree limb removal is several weeks behind schedule because the truck with the grappling hook is in the shop for maintenance because of Hurricane Harvey. Toney reassured the council tree limb removal is on-going, but temporarily delayed but expected to start in earnest again in approximately two weeks.

Volunteer Fire Chief Shon Branham and Captain One Samuel Johnson were present at the meeting and took their oath of office administered by City Attorney, Tommy Gunn.

Chief of Police Fred R. Hanauer addressed the council and expressed his intention to inquire of Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), managed by the Defense Logistics Agency on behalf of the Department of Defense, to see what surplus military items the City might be able use.

The LESO program has been in effect since 1997 to transfer excess property to law enforcement agencies at no cost to the city for the transfer.

“Military surplus items could potentially be a HUMVEE that could be used to rescue flood stranded citizens,” Hanauer said. “We had a difficult time during Harvey not having vehicles high enough to travel through water. We had to ask support from West Orange and I don’t like to ask another city to help do what we should do on our own for our own citizens.”

Hanauer remarked LESO has available thermal and night vision equipment, and weapons too among a list of other items.

“I am not looking to militarize our police officers and don’t want to get ahead of ourselves on this,” Hanauer said. “I am just going to look to see what’s available through LESO that would be a cost benefit to the city for our needs.”

Election Day is May 5 for the city with two council seats at stake currently held by Cynthia Adams completing Dan Barclay’s term, and John Zerko.

Mayor J. L. “Peter” Runnels is up for reelection and confirmed he will run for a seventh term having dropped out of contention for Orange County Judge.

Candidates for office must file for a place on the ballot between January 17 and February 16, 2018.