By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
City of Atmore officials announced last week that FEMA-funded and Theodore-based private contractor Crowder Gulf had completed the citywide removal of debris left behind by Hurricane Sally.
The grinding of stumps and other tree pieces that were being conducted at the former Escambia County Middle School site, which was the staging area for the project, should be completed before week’s end. The chips are being taken to the city’s landfill, where they will be used as cover material.
“You couldn’t ask for anything to go smoother,” Mayor Jim Staff said of the cleanup project. “Those folks (Crowder Gulf) got after it. They really bent over backwards to make things work.”
The private contractor had already made its final pickups of vegetative debris when city officials talked them into making one more run-through to tackle problem areas where the preparation of debris for pickup had taken longer than normal. That was done on October 22.
“They came back and picked up I don’t know how many truckloads, but the driver stayed here until 7 (p.m.) to get the last one,” Staff said. “The power company had to come fix the line where one tree had snagged it, and they were here until after 6. I called and asked if (Crowder) had a crew still out. They got somebody over here and took care of it. They didn’t have to do that.”
Officials reported that approximately 1,200 loads (almost 44,000 cubic yards) of debris were removed from city sidewalks and street sides over the past two-plus weeks.
The mayor said most of the residents around the old middle school site accepted the fact that the noise and dust of the operation would be constant until the job was finished.
“I went around informing them — knocking on doors or talking to them on their porches or in their yards — as to what we were going to be doing, about the noise and the trucks, and when we planned to be out of there,” said Staff. “Not one of them I talked to said he or she had a problem with it. They just wanted everything cleaned up.”
Restoration of the school property will be done as soon as grinding and hauling operations are completed, officials said. Staff noted that the 16-wheeled Morbark Wood Hog grinder being used by contractors has made short work of the debris.
“You talk about eating wood, you can throw a log that big around into that machine they’ve got out there,” he said, forming a wide circle with his arms. “It might make a little different noise for a few seconds, but it’ll take it.”