LUMBERTON — Next week Robeson County will begin providing free curbside pickup of household items that were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in unincorporated areas of the county, according to County Manager Ricky Harris, but Lumberton residents will have to wait until a contractor is hired to do that work.
Harris said that the free service, which begins Tuesday, will be provided in areas that FEMA has declared suffered property damage by water. Items that will be picked up at the curb and transported to the county landfill in St. Pauls includes white goods, such as appliances, refrigerators, air conditioners, stoves and dishwashers; brown goods, which includes furniture and similar items; Sheetrock and other building materials; and general household goods.
Harris said that vegetative debris, including limbs, leaves and brush, will not be picked by the county.
“DOT (Department of Transportation) is responsible for picking up debris on state roadways,” he said. “We (county) don’t own roads.”
According to Harris, the county commissioners made the decision to offer the free pickup and disposal of water-damaged items.
“This is not something the county has to do,” Harris said. “There is no requirement from the state or federal government for us to do this.”
Steve Edge, the county’s Solid Waste director, said that six of his employees, including a supervisor, have been assigned to conduct the transport of damaged items to the landfill.
“They should progress at a good pace. We should get cleaned up quickly,” Edge said.
Edge said the cleanup will begin on Alamac Road, an area of the county that is densely populated and suffered severe flooding. He said the cleanup will then proceed to other unincorporated areas of the county.
Edge said that because of the small number of houses damaged and destroyed in the county’s unincorporated areas, county officials decided it is quicker and more efficient for the county to do its own cleanup rather than to go through the bidding process to hire contractors to do the job that FEMA requires for reimbursement.
“In our (county) situation, because of the small number of houses damaged it is easier for us to do the job,” Edge said. “From what I have observed, only about 100 buildings in the unincorporated areas of the county were damaged.”
Edge said that those property owners who wish to clean up their property and carry the damages items to the landfill will not be charged a disposal fee. However, if a property owner has his property cleaned up by a contractor, the contractor will be charged a fee at the landfill.
In Lumberton, Waste Management picks up regular household waste but picking up hurricane debris is different, according to Mayor Bruce Davis.
“FEMA has stringent regulations about who can pick up debris and who can’t. It has to be a FEMA approved contractor and they must have the proper equipment,” Davis said.
Debris such as insulation, Sheetrock, wood, metal, glass and brown and white goods will be hauled off by whichever contractor the county hires.
Davis said typically FEMA pay 75 percent of the cost and the state picks up the balance.
The city will open bids on Friday from three FEMA-approved contractors, then Davis will call a special meeting of the City Council to hire the lowest bidder.
Once that happens, debris collection will begin immediately. The city will also hire a debris “monitor.”
“It is suggested that the city have an approved debris monitor,” Davis said. “These are people who tell you who picks up your debris, where it’s at, how much it weighed and how many cubic yards it is.”
According to Edge, already DOT and others — including municipalities — have hauled more than 5,000 tons of vegetative debris to the landfill. As of last week, he said, there had been 75 tons of debris other than vegetative debris brought to the landfill.