Department heads in charge of storm debris removal for Bulloch County and the city of Statesboro say residents have until Nov. 30 to place debris such as limbs and sawed-up trees at the curb or in county road rights of way for collection.
Actually picking up all the debris from Hurricane Matthew, which blasted the area Oct. 7-8, will probably take until mid-December, said Bulloch County Transportation Director Dink Butler. Both the city and county have been collecting debris, with the city's work being an
extension of its regular curbside yard waste service.
At first, the county emphasized having residents take debris to its 17 recycling convenience sites. But the county road department's clearing of roadside rights of way includes removing debris placed there by residents.
"We're still clearing right of ways," Butler said Friday. "We're probably about 50 percent through with picking up along the county-maintained paved roads, clearing that debris and what little bit we've had to move off of some dirt roads."
The first priority, he said, was to remove debris that the storm caused to fall in or near the roads.
"Then we're also going to pick up what the public puts in the right of way from the storm," Butler said.
The initial request for county residents to haul their debris to convenience sites, which temporarily shifted from taking tires and other large items to accepting vegetative storm debris, reduced the size of the task the county faced, Butler said.
"A lot of people, especially in the subdivisions closer to town, did that, and that saved us a lot of work," he said.
County crews will go into subdivisions to clean up along their streets but have done only a few subdivisions at this point, Butler said. The limited amount of debris removal along dirt road rights of way has been in residential areas, he said.
Nov. 30 deadline
Butler and Statesboro Public Works and Engineering Director Jason Boyles talked last week and then announced the Nov. 30 deadline for residents to place debris at the city's curbs and along the county's rights of way.
"We're asking them to have all the storm debris in the right of ways by the 30th," Butler said. "It may still be some time after that before we finish our pickup, but we feel like we've got to put some kind of drop-dead date on it, to end what's being piled there."
Otherwise, he said, after the crews have removed the debris in an area, residents pile more by the roadside, causing the crews to have to return to the same places.
To remove the debris, county road crews were reassigned from road maintenance and other projects, as Butler wants the public to realize.
"Please understand that the storm cleanup has taken us away from some other work that would have been our normal working process with dirt roads and some maintenance on paved roads," he said. "We do intend to get back to that. It's just that the storm debris has kind of taken priority right now."
In addition to operating five or six dump trucks daily for debris removal, the department borrows the solid waste department's grapple truck, sometimes two or three days a week, he said.
The dump trucks have to be loaded with backhoes or excavators, but the grapple truck, with its loading boom, can operate independently, making it especially useful in the subdivisions, he said.
Meanwhile, Statesboro's crews had completed the first round of collecting vegetative storm debris over seven of the city's eight yard waste routes by Friday, Boyles said. The eighth should be done this week.
He estimated that this first round has captured about 75 percent of the trees and limbs that need to be removed as a result of the storm. Now he expects residents to bring the other 25 percent to the curb in the second round.
But before that last round of vegetative debris is collected, city crews will pick up household waste debris, such as furniture and household items, Boyles said.
"We've been way behind on collecting those items," he said. "We've put that off so we could focus on vegetative storm debris collection, so we'll pick that up next. Then we'll drop back and pick up the final round of the vegetative storm debris."
The non-vegetative debris to be picked up also includes things such as boards and shingles.
After Nov. 30, Statesboro residents should resume following the usual rules for leaving yard waste at the curb, Boyles said in an email.
"Any debris placed curbside after this date must be in compliance with local ordinances," he wrote. "Statesboro citizens may contact the city of Statesboro Public Works office at (912) 764-0681 if they have any questions."
Boyles estimates that the city alone has collected about 7,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris so far, about 75 percent more than of the volume collected after Winter Storm Pax in February 2014.
The city and county are dumping the debris in two separate piles, side-by-side, on county-owned land. Butler had no yardage estimate of the debris the county has collected, but said the county's pile appears to be about three-fourths as large as the city's.
Whether the debris will be burned, chipped or disposed of in some other way remains to be decided. With the public assistance declaration Bulloch County and its cities received through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the local governments expect to receive federal reimbursement for at least 75 percent of the collection and disposal costs.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.