FEMA Packs it up

Published 3:43 am Wednesday, February 9, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
The population of Escambia County is about to decrease significantly over the next few days as FEMA-contracted construction crews pull out of town.
According to officials with the Army Corps of Engineers, who are in charge of the cleanup effort for FEMA, the Atmore cleanup could be finished today as long as weather doesn't cause delays.
"If it rains on us we may have to extend," Theodis Williams, a civilian quality assurance inspector for the Corps, said. "If it rains and gets things wet the trucks could get stuck."
Williams, a Burkville native, who has been doing project safety supervision in Atmore for the past 27 days said that the Atmore phase of cleanup could be finished by Wednesday.
"We're looking at two or three days to get Atmore completed," Williams said Monday. His sources said the Brewton cleanup could be completed shortly thereafter.
The Army Corps of Engineers has a contract to supervise all cleanup efforts in federally declared disaster areas.
Al Joe Hunt, the resident engineer for the Corps and general supervisor of the cleanup effort in Escambia County said Monday that all the major work had already been completed.
"We've just got a few spots here around town, a little bit in the park and that's it," Hunt said. "We basically have just one street and Tom Byrne Park left."
All but one crew in Atmore was let go earlier this week as their work was completed. The final crew will focus on the park as soon as a bucket truck can be delivered to assist with tree branch removal.
"There are limbs that are broke and are hanging that at some point could fall," Hunt said. According to Hunt the limbs could pose a danger if not removed.
Brewton crews will likely pull out in the next few days as work nears completion.
"We're still working in the Brewton area and we'll hopefully be done in the next week," Hunt said. "If it doesn't rain I think we'll close up here (in Escambia County) by Feb. 15. We'll be pulling out as soon as we finish the whole county."
Hunt, who normally lives in Texas, has been doing Hurricane cleanup almost constantly since Frances hit Florida in August.
"I got here around the 9th of December," Hunt said. "I was in Florida for Frances and when Ivan hit I came to Alabama."
Hunt was able to return home for two months starting in October.
"I've been bouncing place to place for quite a few months," Hunt said.
Construction crews have come from all over the country to assist in cleanup and many of them will get to go home soon.
"We have had people from Alaska, Hawaii and Oklahoma to assist in cleanup," Hunt said.
Kenneth Hardaway the foreman of a crew from Battiest, Okla. said companies throughout the country bid on cleanup work through FEMA.
"As soon as the wind stopped blowing I made some phone calls," Hardaway said. "I guess we're just about through now."
Hardaway said of all the disaster related cleanup efforts his company had been involved in, the people of Alabama had been the friendliest.
Hunt said much of the success of this cleanup operation was due to the cooperation of the cities, local residents and the construction crews from all over the country.
"The folks who work here, the construction folks, and the city and county folks have all been very good to us," Hunt said.
Hunt said he had received a few complaints from residents of the county and that his crews had received total cooperation.
"Most people have been glad to see us and I guess they'll be even happier to see us go," he concluded.

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