Update from the mayor: mega company will be contracted for debris removal, but it will take time to happen

Published 7:12 pm Sunday, January 15, 2023

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By Dennis Palmer

The Selma Times-Journal

While Selma streets are mostly cleared of down trees and debris making it easier to move through the city, Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr. said the city is working toward finding a “mega company” to remove the debris from the public right of ways, where city workers, tree removal companies, and citizens have placed it.

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“Our streets are pretty much cleared, so access up and down the streets is cleared,” said Perkins during a 4 p.m. press conference Sunday. “What we’ve been doing is piling the debris beside the road. That is going to take a contact issue with a mega company to come in and begin that process.”

Perkins said the process of finding a company to remove the debris will be similar to other contracts the city enters into – they will have to advertise the contract details and take bids before awarding the contract to a company.

“To citizens, the right thing to do would have been to have done a contract yesterday, but we can’t just do it right, we have to do it legal and right,” he said.

Perkins went on to say he expects the contract to be awarded “In a matter of weeks, and not months.”

Perkins also warned citizens about hiring people and companies who do not have the proper credentials to do home construction work, or remove trees or debris from their property.

“If you are talking to people who are contractors, make sure they have a city permit, city license to business here, that they are bonded and insured,” Perkins said. “If they do not have a city license, they may not be credible and you give them your money and you may not get it back.”

With many people having been without power for days, people are beginning to clear out refrigerators and freezers, but Perkins said it’s important people use their garbage cans for that type of material.

“We do want people to keep the debris from the storm separated from everything else. Don’t put household garbage in the debris piles,” he said. “Once you do that, you make that pile ineligible to go to the inert landfill. Household garbage we will continue to pick that up as we normally do.”

Perkins said Martin Environmental, which is contracted with the city for garbage pickup, should have a garbage can at every house, and if not, he said to contact the city or Martin Environmental and they will bring a can to you.

While shelters at Selma High School and many of the churches around town remain open, Perkins said the community has stepped up to help those who have lost their homes and have no where to stay.

“What I’m being reminded of is the resilience of our folks, and the love and care people have for each other,” Perkins said. “We don’t really have a lot of people who do not have shelter over their heads, people have places to stay. I’ve have not heard from anyone at this point who does not have a place to stay.”

Don Hartley, who is regional coordinator for the State of Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said the disaster declaration made by the federal government clears the way for Selma residents and property owners to receive monetary assistance, but there will be some provisions citizens will need to keep in mind.

“One thing to remember, the individual assistance for the disaster does not make you whole, it does not replace your home as it was before. It makes your home livable. If you were insured, you may have been under insured; it can help you with that. In some cases it can help you if you need assistance replacing your car and things like that.”

Perkins praised the people of the city and members of city government and the city staff for their work since the tornado struck.

“The amount of work we’ve gotten accomplished in these first three days has been unprecedented,” he said. “I think the men and women who have been doing this work over a holiday and over a weekend, I can’t say enough about the kind of leadership we’ve had from EMA and other governmental entities – and public works.”