Debris removal from Hurricane Zeta is under way in most of Hancock County. AshBritt Environmental CEO Brittany Perkins Castillo said this week that removal in Bay St. Louis should be substantially complete by Christmas.

Hurricane Zeta made landfall in Hancock County on Oct. 28 and the county and all its communities are still cleaning up the debris left in its wake.

“Bay St. Louis is the first jurisdiction in the county to get removal started,” AshBritt Environmental CEO Brittany Perkins Castillo said last week. “We’re estimating debris removal should be substantially complete by Christmas.”

The city signed with AshBritt last month under an emergency order.

““We did it under an emergency contract so we can get going quicker and start getting this debris out for our citizens,” Mayor Mike Favre said at the time. “Our little grapple truck is working seven days a week, 10 or 12 hours a day. We’re doing the best we can,” but it was necessary to bring in an outside contractor to expedite the process.

“Obviously, with the pandemic and all that’s going on … it’s important for the city to quickly respond and deploy the correct resources for the people impacted by the storm,” Castillo said. “The resources need to be there to quickly get cleaned up regardless of what’s going on.”

“We’re very happy” with the contract, Favre said. “And they’re going to hire locals, as well. That’s a good thing, any time they hire local people — that helps the local economy.”

Castillo said that while AshBritt is based in Florida, “we’re using about 80 percent local resources.

“Our headquarters are in Florida, but our goal is to bring as many local resources in as possible, and that’s what we’re doing in this area,” she said. “Ensuring that locals are part of the effort — that’s who we are.”

AshBritt is a family-owned business that started 29 years ago as a small landscaping company, but after a hurricane impacted the family’s hometown, they branched out into disaster cleanup operations.

“Our company is engaged in disaster response 365 days a year,” Castillo said. “We’ve even been engaged to help support services around COVID19 — working with field hospitals, assisting with distribution of testing, vaccines, and PPE.

“In addition we coordinate … training for disaster response. We have a team that works with local businesses year around so they understand what resources they’ll need in the event of any sort of disaster. We offer workshops for others who wish to work in disaster recovery. We explain how to register with the federal government in order to do that. I would encourage any small businesses or contractors to reach out to our company so we can help them through the process of registering with the government.”

City officials said the estimated cost for Zeta debris removal is around $2.5 million, but they expect much of the cost will be covered by FEMA reimbursement.

The Hancock County Board of Supervisors awarded a bid for Hurricane Zeta storm debris removal to TFR Enterprises on Nov. 20 in the amount of $1,547,650.

The city of Waveland on Tuesday awarded the bid for Hurricane Zeta debris removal to Kansas-based Custom Tree Care, Inc.

The Diamondhead City Council approved a contract with Holliday Construction, LLC, on Nov. 23, and debris removal got under way there on Nov. 30.

“To begin, the contractor will focus on clearing Diamondhead Drive (loop), Golf Club Drive and Kapalama,” City Manager Michael Reso said in a press release. “Then, they will distribute trucks and trailers to each ward in the city. The contractor is required to make two full passes down every street within 30 calendar days. Then, the contractor will make one final pass to finish the clean-up.

“Residents are asked to separate debris into two piles. One should be just trees and shrubbery. The second pile is construction materials (fences, lumber, sheetrock, etc.). Two different trucks will be picking up the different debris since it is delivered to different landfills. By separating this debris, the contractor will be able to move faster through the city. In addition, residents should not park their cars on the streets while these trucks are working in the city. These trucks and trailers are very large and will have to maneuver through our streets. If your vehicle is parked in the road, it could be hit by a truck and trailer. If your vehicle is blocking the debris pile, the contractor will pass your property and move onto the next house. This means your debris pile may not get picked up on this first pass.”

Reso said “it took so long to get the debris removed” because the city had to comply with FEMA regulations in order to qualify for reimbursement, which meant advertising for a contractor for two consecutive weeks, then waiting seven business days to open the bids.

“The debris is estimated at 125 cubic yards with an estimated cost of $1.7 million,” Reso said. “If the city did not follow FEMA guidelines, the city would have to pay 100% of this cost. If we follow FEMA guidelines as we have done, the City may only be required to pay 12.5% (or $212,500). The council decided to follow the guidelines to try to get financial assistance from FEMA for the cost of removing the debris.“

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