Winter storm cleanup continues in parish

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

VIDALIA, La. — Winter storm cleanup continues to go on in Concordia Parish nearly 8 months after the historic weather event took place in February.

Layers of ice blanketed the ground and tops of trees causing trees and tree limbs to fall throughout the parish. Originally, the Concordia Parish estimated the cost to clean up the damage to be approximately $1.4 million — only 75 percent of which could be reimbursed by FEMA.

The remaining 25 percent of that cost was not in the budget, so the police jury delayed taking action until June, when members could be certain they could recoup the cost of picking up the debris, secretary and treasurer Sandi Burley said.

“This was a winter storm event and is something we’ve never experienced before and works unlike any other storm we have dealt with,” she said.

On June 22, FEMA determined that the parish did in fact qualify for reimbursement under Category A debris cleanup. By then, many residents had taken care of some debris themselves by burning it or hauling it away, leaving less to pick up and therefore lessening the cost for the parish to clean up, Burley said.

The police jury found it would be less costly to purchase a grapple truck to clean up the debris in house than it would be to contract the cleanup with an outside company, she said. The police jury ordered the truck in June for $157,696 and it arrived in late August. The parish will be able to receive some of the cost for the truck back when the reimbursement from FEMA comes in, she said.

“It only made sense for us to purchase our own grapple truck and do it internally instead of paying third party,” Burley said.

Storm cleanup for the parish did not physically start until Sept. 7 after another delay caused by Hurricane Ida, Burley said. She estimated there was between five and seven thousand cubic yards of debris to clean up.

“It is hard to quantify,” she said. “I would say we’re around 75 percent finished with the cleanup and we’re hoping to be done by October.”

In other matters during a Monday meeting of the Concordia Parish Police Jury, the board voted unanimously to send a letter to the Concordia Council on Aging requesting their operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, minutes from board meetings in 2020 and 2021 and a list of who the current board members are.

Until recently, Burley said it was thought that the Council on Aging was a quasi-entity of the parish that would have to get approval from the police jury to appoint new members. However, members learned recently that the council has its own charter and elects its own members for a three-year term.