City Allocates $25 million for Debris Removal

Houston Councilmembers held a brief emergency meeting this week. They appropriated 25-million dollars for debris clean-up around the city. Laurie Johnson reports.

Mayor Bill White opened the meeting with a prayer for Houston.

“Dear God, thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for reminding us from time to time how precious our days and hours are and how more precious we make them by helping our fellow human beings.”

He closed by saying we are not the center of all that exists, but are part of something much greater.

The mayor then asked Solid Waste Management Director Harry Hayes to brief councilmembers on waste removal. Hayes was still wearing his orange traffic safety vest. He says it could take more than two months to clean up all the debris left by Hurricane Ike.

“Everybody has gone out and scoured the city. A couple of things we’ve discovered: There has not been any widespread flooding, we’ve checked the historical flooding areas. We do know that based on the path of the storm where we have heavy forestation neighborhoods, the damage is very extensive and is widespread.”

The department estimates at least 4.5 million cubic yards of debris fell in Houston alone. Councilmembers approved an ordinance to create the Hurricane Ike Aid and Recovery Fund. They appropriated $25 million into that fund to start the clean-up.

White says he fully expects FEMA to reimburse the city for 100 percent of those expenses.

“In Allison and in Rita, FEMA took the position at various times that — get this — because we didn’t know whether a particular tree would have been related to the storm or what would just be normal trees going down…because they didn’t have numbers on them like Ike Victim #473, or trees couldn’t talk and they couldn’t interview them. And what we’re going to say is go look at how much we’ve been picking up, look at how much we picked up last year — we’ll document that — and the stuff over and above that is the debris from the storm.”

The city also authorized a $1.5 million fund to help low-income and elderly citizens temporarily repair home damage.

That fund will pay for tarps, plywood and other band-aid type repairs until more permanent measures can take place.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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