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Protests caused delays for debris removal in some south Georgia communities

Decatur County Debris Removal
Decatur County Debris Removal
Posted at 4:52 PM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2019-10-02 15:49:25-04

BAINBRIDGE, GA (WTXL) --Friday, workers were given the green light to once again start collecting the debris that's been piling up in some south Georgia communities since Hurricane Michael. 

This, after several days of frustration as trucks, workers, residents, and city officials were forced to wait to get the job started.

WTXL went to Bainbridge to find out why the removal process took so long.

The power has been restored to Bainbridge, and most residents throughout the county have moved their yard debris to the road for pick up, but it's still there, and has been for many weeks.

"We were able, within a week, to get curbside garbage service back up and running," said Chris Hobby, Bainbridge City Manager. "The lingering issue is the debris piles that remain and are so voluminous, it's going to be quite a while before all that is gone."

For residents in southwest Georgia, the yard debris piled high along the streets are a constant reminder of what Hurricane Michael left behind three weeks ago.

But removing the piles of storm debris is more complicated than just loading up trucks. FEMA and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency entered into a contract to remove the debris. FEMA then contracted the work to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who hired a company to remove the debris.

"As we've gotten our contractor moving, a competitor files a protest with the Government Accountability Office, the GAO," said Billy Birdwell, a Spokesman for the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Whenever there is a protest filed, we immediately have to stop work. That's required by law, that is, until the GAO finds a way to resolve the issues."

The city is doing everything it can, but doesn't have the equipment to clear the piles.

"We just don't have the number of trucks sufficient to handle the project," said Hobby. "Second thing is our trucks are not heavy duty enough to handle the size and the weight. We can do a little. We can try to eliminate the hazards where they exist, but as far as tackling the entire project, it's just simply beyond our ability."

As hard as it is, leaders are asking residents to be patient until the official complaints are investigated and resolved. Both Hobby and Birdwell are doing everything possible to expedite the process.

According to a press release sent Friday morning, the Government Accountability Office is still assessing the official complaints, though it has cleared the "U-S Army Corps of Engineers" to resume debris removal in Decatur, Dougherty, Seminole, Miller and Mitchell counties.