On both sides of Linn Park, government officials are grappling with tornado cleanup, with one interesting difference. On Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council approved a $2.7 million contract for cleanup monitoring. At cash-strapped Jefferson County, county inspectors have been doing the same work in-house.
The contract for cleanup monitoring was one of three proposed by Birmingham Mayor William Bell to dispose of right-of-way debris. Councilors had debated whether to award the contracts to private contractors or turn the job over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The plan drew scrutiny because the monitoring contract was awarded to Malcolm Pirnie, Mayor Bell’s former employer and a frequent and major campaign contributor.
Cleanup monitors must ensure contractors are not cheating and remain in compliance with FEMA guidelines for federal reimbursement.
The city awarded DRC Emergency Services, a Mobile company, the contract to remove right-of-way debris, and it gave Southeastern Renewables a contract recycle tornado debris.
After a lengthy executive session to discuss legal issues, the council voted to approve Bell’s plan.
In unincorporated Jefferson County, cleanup crews have been working for weeks under the eye of county inspectors. Contractors have moved 490,000 cubic yards of debris, Roads and Transportation Director Wayne Sullivan told the county commission Tuesday.
County inspectors have caught multiple contractors trying to exaggerate debris loads or claim work that wasn’t done, Sullivan said. Those contractors were fired and payments were frozen for the work they reported.
“We took away any opportunity for them to be paid,” Sullivan said. “We took all the tickets that they had hauled out of the mix.”
Commissioner Joe Knight said the decision to keep the work in-house was the right one.
“They have a vested interest in this,” Knight said of the county employees. “They know their area. They don’t have to look at a map to see where they need to be, and it’s their community. They feel like they’re contributing to their community.”