BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (May 17) — On Tuesday, May 17, the Dresden City Board met in special session to review bids submitted by two disaster debris removal monitoring companies, and to consider the position of building inspector for the City of Dresden.
In order to qualify for reimbursement from FEMA, a debris monitor is required to verify how much material is hauled to a dumpsite.
The board considered bids submitted by Debris Tech based in Picayune, Mississippi, and True North Emergency Management from Arlington, Texas, for monitoring the removal of disaster debris.
Mayor Jeff Washburn said some of the questions the board needs to know about the disaster monitoring service are: “How soon can each company start? What experience do they have? And what is the estimated cost of their labor?
Since True North had no representative at the meeting, Debris Tech specialist Tyler Johnson was asked to give a presentation answering these questions.
Johnson stated Debris Tech can begin work within 24 to 48 hours of notification.
Regarding Debris Tech’s experience, Johnson stated his firm just finished a job in Waverly and is currently monitoring a debris cleanup job in Memphis. Over the years, the company has provided disaster monitoring services for all types of disasters across Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, and Iowa, including major hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms and floods.
Johnson stated Debris Tech handles all documentation required by FEMA, so the city can be reimbursed for all authorized expenses incurred in the cleanup. He mentioned Debris Tech utilizes an Automated Debris Management System that incorporates cutting edge technology and industry-first processing automation. The ADMS serves as a real-time auditing system for all debris removal operations, which streamlines the recovery process, while automating data collection for reimbursement purposes and ensures the entire process operates quickly and efficiently.
According to Johnson, Debris Tech will hire local citizens to monitor each truck operated by the cleanup contractor.
He noted measurements are taken of each truck to determine load capacity, and this information is stored in a database. This information is live and city officials can log into a computer website to receive a daily report on the status of the cleanup, which includes the accumulated cost.
Mayor Washburn stated the contract with Debris Tech is based on cost per ton, rather than cost per cubic yard.
Johnson explained each truck arriving at the landfill will be weighed on the scales as it enters and after dumping its load, so an accurate tally can be kept of the weight of the debris disposed of. A weigh ticket will be provided to document this information.
The cost for monitoring services listed in Debris Tech’s bid is based on the estimated hours it takes to complete the project. This depends on how many hours it takes for the debris removal contractor to haul the materials to the dump. The more trucks the debris removal contractor utilizes, the sooner the cleanup will be completed.
According to Dresden’s debris removal contractor, Quality Contractor Services, the cleanup is estimated to take approximately two months.
Johnson stated monitoring costs are typically around 20 percent of debris removal costs.
Debris Tech submitted a bid of $12,915 for every 60-hour period the firm provides monitoring services. There is no charge for days the debris removal employees are not working.
The Debris Tech representative noted employees on the payroll will consist of one project manager, one supervisor, a monitor with each loading crew, and a tower site monitor at the entrance to the landfill.
True North submitted a bid of $95,020. However, the hours listed on their bid are not intended to represent the actual contract amount but are an estimated representation. The actual amount is in excess of $33,000 for a 60-hour week.
Mayor Washburn said the debris removal contractor will make a pass through town picking up debris and hauling it to the dumpsite, wait a week and make another run.
According to Johnson, it should only take two or three trips throughout the city to pick up all of the storm debris.
Alderman Gwin Anderson asked how it could be determined what debris will be covered by FEMA and what will not.
Johnson answered, “By talking with property owners. They should know if they tore down a standing structure or not. If you have an incident where a contractor came in and tore down something without their knowledge, they may not know. But, I would think they would know if they had a standing structure, and whether the insurance paid to have it removed or not.”
Johnson stated it was the first time he has ever heard of FEMA not paying for cleanup costs, and FEMA needs to be contacted about the situation. He noted that all of the debris pushed to the road should be eligible.
After hearing the presentation, the board voted unanimously to approve the lowest and best bid submitted by Debris Tech to be the monitoring contractor for the debris pickup in accordance with FEMA regulations.
Next, the board discussed the issue between the city’s building inspector David Kelly, and Jackey and Terri Lamb, owners and operators of Jackey Lamb Storage, which cannot open after being built, because Kelly refused to issue a certificate of occupancy.
Kelly claimed the perimeter of the concrete foundation slants inward, is not 12 inches wide, and is not deep enough to pass code. He also stated a soil compaction test was not performed. The inspector stated the foundation does not meet the building code and refused to approve a certificate of occupancy, unless these deficiencies are corrected.
Mr. Lamb argued he has done everything asked of him by the inspector, but has still not been granted a certificate of occupancy. His claims were supported by the contractor that poured the foundation, Cole Builders, as well as the owner of Houston Engineering, who argued the building is up to code.
The mayor noted Cole Builders removed dirt from around the foundation, so Kelly could inspect it. Washburn stated he received an email from Kelly informing him that although he didn’t come to Dresden Friday afternoon, as he said he would, because of the rain, he did come on Saturday to inspect the building. Kelly turned it down, because he stated the sides of the foundation slope inward and the footing does not meet code.
However, company representatives from Cole Builders inspected the footing, and determined that it meets code requirements.
Alderwoman Sandra Klutts asked if the Lambs’ engineering firm would still guarantee the structure for 10 years, and Mayor Washburn affirmed they would. Additionally, the company’s owner agreed to sign documentation relieving the City of Dresden from any liability.
“Ever since I’ve known Mr. Kelly, he’s been difficult to work with,” Klutts said. “I think everybody would agree with that. He’s not doing our city one bit of good. He’s not responsive to what our people need when they need it. Mr. Lamb would not have put the storage building up out there if he hadn’t thought the contractor he hired was competent; and they’re saying everything is fine with that building. I think we need to terminate Mr. Kelly and look for another building inspector. I’ve heard that any licensed contractor can serve as a building inspector, and surely we can find someone to help us until we can remedy (the situation).”
Mayor Washburn said, “I’m not a fan of Mr. Kelly either, after the statements he made to Mr. Lamb, and Mr. Luke Higgs, who owns the diesel shop on Highway 22, and others that he’s dealt with. Many contractors in this city have told me they will never build anything in Dresden again, because Kelly is so difficult to deal with. That’s what I hear from the people that have dealt with him. But simply voting him out does not solve the problem. We cannot overrule his report. We would have to select another building inspector and have him make an inspection, and he would have to issue a certificate of occupancy.”
Anderson said, “I think we need to look at the situation where, because of the tornado, the planning committee made some exceptions. They said, ‘you don’t have to get a building permit; keep it on the original foundation and go ahead and put it up.’ But, Donnie Essary’s building was put up and he expanded it, making it bigger than it was before. CBR Restaurant, they tore it down and expanded it, without any inspections whatsoever. This is new construction and technically, the same criteria we’re holding Mr. Lamb to were not held to these individuals when they expanded their buildings. I think we’re at risk, because of the natural disaster, of treating these individuals differently. And that’s a dangerous situation, when we treat Mr. Lamb differently than (the others).” Regarding Kelly’s extreme scrutiny over a mere storage building, Anderson said somewhat sarcastically, “After all, it’s not a two or three story building occupied by school children.”
Washburn noted that Kelly works full-time as a building inspector in Memphis and can only perform inspections in Dresden in the late evening after 6:00 p.m. or later, or on Saturday. “Six months out of the year, after 6 p.m., it’s dark,” Washburn said.
Alderman Ralph Cobb indicated the city should hire a building inspector closer to home, so whenever a contractor needs to have a building inspected, it can be done much quicker. This will allow the contractor to proceed with building construction, without having to wait until Saturday for Kelly to come to Dresden and make an inspection. “In order to help our folks, we need to get somebody closer,” Cobb said.
Klutts said, “We probably have some licensed inspectors that have slowed down now. So, I feel like some of them could become the building inspector.”
“What if you get somebody tougher than (Kelly); are you going to get rid of him too?” Alderman Kenneth Moore asked. “Anytime you get the state and government involved, you’re going to have to follow the guidelines.”
However, Washburn explained, “He works for us – not the state. And let me say this, you have codes, which say such and such. But the inspector has his way he wants it done. Sometimes, enforcement of that code is subject to whether or not the builder meets the intent of the code.”
“Mr. Kelly only inspects commercial buildings,” Washburn said. “We use the state inspector for residential structures. The state inspector does not do commercial inspections. If we could find a licensed building inspector, we could (have one individual) perform both inspections – residential and commercial.”
“I’m not saying we’re going to give Jackie Lamb a pass on his building,” Klutts said. “I’m just saying I want to get a new building inspector for all of our people, so their needs can be met, and they don’t have to meet after hours and on Saturday. That’s hard to do; and it’s not at all what we need to be doing.” She stated the problem needs to be remedied, even if the city has to hire someone. “We could send one of our people to school to become a licensed building inspector,” she suggested.
“I’ve been given a few names that might (serve) as interim building inspector,” Washburn said.
Klutts made a motion to dismiss Kelly as the current building inspector and search for a new one, and in the meantime, try to hire an interim inspector. The motion passed 4-2 with aldermen Anderson and Moore voting no.
(See the article “Debris Removal Hotly Debated by Dresden Officials” for more information.)