The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 13, 2014

City storm costs at $4.4 million

— The April 28 tornadoes have cost the city of Athens an estimated $4.4 million for cleanup and repairs, Mayor Ronnie Marks said.

Athens Utilities spent roughly $3.4 million of that total restoring power to about 16,000 customers in Athens and Limestone County. The tornadoes destroyed or damaged 450 power poles, including 80 to 90 big poles that take between three and four hours for crews to replace, Marks told City Council members Monday. The rest was spent cleaning up trees and debris inside Athens and for any necessary repairs to city property.

Marks said he expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse about 75 percent of the cost or about $3.3 million.

“If we are lucky, we will get 80 to 85 percent back,” he said.

The city’s General Fund will pay $300,000 of the $1.1 million in unreimbursed costs and Athens Utilities will pay $800,000, City Clerk Annette Barnes said.

The estimate could increase over the coming months, as final costs are tabulated.  

Burn or grind?

In other storm-related business, council members authorized the Public Works Department to seek bids on disposing of the vast amounts of vegetation collected after the April 28 storms.

Sanitation Director Earl Glaze said the city would seek bids on burning or grinding the vegetation. The project would be paid for with city money and FEMA reimbursement money.

Helping those who help

Athens Utilities General Manager Gary Scroggins sought and received permission to allow volunteers from Habitat for Humanity harvest aluminum from power lines downed by the April 28 storms. The volunteers would put the harvested metal pieces on a scrap truck, which would take the metal to a scrap dealer, Scroggins said. Athens Utilities would pay the hauler and the volunteers a portion of the price it receives for the scrap metal, he said.

Law enforcement officials have been patrolling areas where lines are down to prevent people from scavenging them. Scroggins said the lines are city property and anyone caught trying to harvest them could be prosecuted.

Council members agreed and thanked Scroggins for helping the local group, which helps those in need of housing.

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