Fairhope storm cleanup estimate $7.74 million

Debris removal expected to take two months


FAIRHOPE – Cleaning up from Hurricane Sally will cost an estimated $7.75 million in Fairhope, but most of that cost should be paid by federal sources, city officials said.

Richard Johnson, public works director, told City Council members on Sept. 28 that the storm left behind about 400,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris, downed trees and broken limbs, when it struck on Sept. 16.

Fairhope’s entire fleet of trash trucks collect about 234 cubic yards of material on a busy day, Johnson said.

“Damage was significant within our city limits and our utility service territories,” Johnson said. “The majority of the damage was wind-related. Surge and flooding were minor compared to damage caused by tree failures.”

Johnson said the cost estimate for collection is $7.74 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of that cost, Johnson said. In past disasters, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency has paid half of the remaining cost.

Johnson said state officials have not confirmed how much Alabama will pay. He said some projections are that AEMA would pay 15 percent, but the state could also decide to not pay any of the matching costs.

“The big question we will not know in a while is what is state contribution,” Johnson said.

He said Fairhope also approved a debris management plan that allows the city to receive a one-time option to pay 2 percent of the cost.

With the 2 percent, the FEMA contribution and a possible 12.5 percent state contribution, Fairhope’s share of the cleanup costs would be $814,170.

During the first week of collection after the storm, Crowder-Gulf, the company contracted to remove the material, picked up more than 30,000 cubic yards of debris from Fairhope streets. The items will be taken to a site where the material will be ground into mulch. Mulching will reduce the size of the load to about 25 percent of the total before the debris is taken to a county landfill for disposal.

Johnson said city officials plan to have the first round of collection completed within 28 days after the storm hit. The second round will be done within 50 days. City plans call for all work to be done, except for some follow-up collection, in time for the lighting of the city trees on Nov. 19, 60 days after Sally hit.

“We will still possibly be doing some mop-up work post-Thanksgiving,” Johnson said.

In addition to removing fallen trees and limbs, Fairhope has about 5,000 trees with hanging limbs and 500 leaning trees that will have to be dealt with, Johnson said.

Johnson said that while city trash collection will not be affected, recycling will be discontinued due to damage to Florida Escambia County Utility Authority center where the material is taken.

“ECUA that runs the recycling center that we deliver to, that facility was heavily damaged,” Johnson said. “They’re hoping to be back up and running by the end of October. We have no source for a place to take recycling right now. Especially the mixed stream that we collect street-side. We don’t want to be false in our presentation in that if we collect recycling it’d be going to the sanitary landfill.”

He said Fairhope residents should put recyclable material in with their garbage until the program resumes.