Wood chip reimbursements delayed until next year

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — Federal and state reimbursements for Adams County’s wood chipping expenses from Hurricane Gustav debris will not be coming in until 2010, County Administrator Cathy Walker said.

“Now we’re just in the process of submitting all the paperwork that FEMA requires so that we can get reimbursed for the work that started the day Gustav hit,” Walker said.

“We’re real close to getting it finished. We’ve come pretty much to a close of debris cleanup paperwork, and we’re working on the road repair and culvert damage (paperwork,)” Walker said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get everything finished up next week, and get it submitted.”

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Walker said while the county originally thought it would be reimbursed for its cleanup efforts this year, confusion and miscommunication between FEMA, MEMA and the county delayed the project.

“We had hoped to have everything finished and submitted long before now, but as we went through the process, things changed,” Walker said.

Walker said the changes started at the beginning of the cleanup process when FEMA instructed the county to haul off the debris, but later told officials the debris must be chipped.

“What we initially did is the road crews took debris and stockpiled and stored it at three different places in the county,” Walker said. “It is all chipped and hauled off now, and the sites are cleaned up.”

Walker said the county’s original intent was to haul the debris to a landfill, but months after working on the piles of wood, FEMA told the county it would not cover the charges of hauling the debris material a second time.

However, the county found a way to ship the wood chippings from their first location.

“We found a contractor to chip the debris, and it was hauled to a mill down in Temple Inland in Bogalusa, La. It was probably used for some type of fuel for the plant,” Walker said.

With the three wood chipping sites finally cleared and awaiting inspection, Walker said she’s hoping FEMA will be able to pay back the county soon.

To date, Walker said the county has spent approximately $300,000 on clean up, but no amount has been tallied for road repair as of yet.

“(Our reimbursement) will all be based on what we turn in,” Walker said. “I’m thinking that they will take whatever we claim as expenses, and they will go through them and check.

“I believe the federal government reimburses 75 percent of our total expenses, and then the state reimburses 15 percent. That leaves (the county) with 5 percent,” Walker said.

“(The reimbursement money) is not going to be here by Christmas, but hopefully shortly after the first of the year.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get everything finished up next week and get it submitted.”