Stream clean-up project begins

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 20, 2004

WINTON – What’s better than having someone clean up your mess? Having someone else pick-up the tab.

Monday night, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners voted to accept the $56,300 bid placed by Russell Enterprises to handle the Hurricane Isabel Stream Debris Removal project. That proposal, the lowest of three total bids, is far less than the $130,900 the county received from the state to pay for the project.

In July, the Commissioners were informed that the efforts of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, county Soil and Water Districts and Albemarle Resource Conservation had led to the eligibility of 15 northeastern North Carolina counties to receive state funds to handle the cost of clearing streams of fallen trees. Those funds were approved by the state General Assembly.

Meanwhile, the savings Hertford County will see between awarding the bid and the money received from the state is more than enough to apply for a 25 percent matching grant for an additional $87,000 in Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funds just recently made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. North Carolina was awarded nearly $3 million in EWP funds.

&uot;There’s no local match necessary for the state funds,&uot; said Hertford County Manager Don Craft. &uot;If our application for the EWP funds is approved, we’ll have enough left between the difference we’ll pay the low bidder and the funds we received from the state to pay for the 25 percent matching grant. There will be no taxpayer money involved in either plan.&uot;

Russell Enterprises, located in Smithfield, is expected to begin work immediately. The state urged contractors to perform the work during the fall and winter months.

Paul Boone, District Conservationist with the Hertford County Soil & Water District, said a total of 20 bid packages were mailed. Three were returned – Russell Enterprises, Garcia Forest Service of Rockingham (a bid of $72,900) and Ricky’s Welding Inc. of Shiloh ($97,949).

When asked if he was concerned about the difference in the high and low bids, Boone said it was not unusual.

&uot;These bids are very similar to those who have contracted in other counties nearby,&uot; stated Boone.

Boone confirmed that the project would be &uot;labor intensive.&uot;

&uot;A lot of this work will be done by hand,&uot; he noted. &uot;Unless the landowner grants permission, the contractor will try his best to avoid using heavy equipment. The hurricane inflicted enough damage on her own. We don’t need to cause any additional damage.&uot;

On Sept. 7, the County Commissioners approved an Emergency Proclamation Ordinance that authorizes county officials, their agents or assignees to enter onto private property for the purpose of removing drainage obstructions and securing access to waterways. The Emergency Ordinance allows for property access and clean-up procedures without having gaining permission from the landowners.

The first phase of the project is divided among nearly 70 sites located throughout the county. Phase 2 will be implemented next year. Boone has prioritized areas as Phase 1 or Phase 2 projects. He stated that Phase 1 would concentrate on the higher population areas or the areas where public health or public safety is compromised by streams that easily flood because of the fallen trees.

A map of the affected portions of the county revealed that the Como area lists 18 projects in Phase 1 and seven more designated for Phase 2. Harrellsville (19/8), Murfreesboro (13/9), Ahoskie (7/4), Union (5/5), Winton-Cofield (4/9) and St. John (0/5) are other areas that are a part of the project.