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Oklahoma storms: Moore pays more than Oklahoma City for debris cleanup

The city of Moore has contracted to pay Silver Star Construction Co. $80.78 for tornado debris removal — a rate two to three times as high as rates Oklahoma City is paying two other contractors to remove debris from the same storm.
by Randy Ellis and William Crum Modified: June 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm •  Published: June 21, 2013

The Oklahoma City debris removal bidding was intensely competitive, with 11 different companies submitting bids. Oklahoma City awarded contracts to the two lowest bidders, Young's General Contracting Inc., of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and DRC Emergency Services LLC, of Mobile, Ala. The third lowest bidder, Asplundh Environmental Services Inc., later was given a $41.10 per ton contract to pick up debris from a May 31 storm.

Advance advantage?

The big advantage to bidding debris removal contracts in advance is that work can begin immediately.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency favors such an approach, Lewellyn said. It even provides incentives for rapid debris removal, including a current pilot program in which the federal government reimburses cities for 85 percent of the cost of removing debris within 30 days of the disaster, dropping to 80 percent for debris removed within the next 60 days and 75 percent for debris removed later.

Despite that program, Lewellyn said he believes Oklahoma City greatly benefited financially by waiting until after the tornado to bid the emergency contract. He noted Oklahoma City's contracts were awarded less than two weeks after the tornado and said residents needed about that much time to search through rubble for valuables, get insurance appraisals and take care of other necessary business.

“We feel like we get a lot better price when each disaster is competitively bid,” he said.

Not just emergencies

Shawn said his contract with Moore requires him to perform lot of management duties that many cities do internally through their public works departments.

Much of the high-volume debris collection work is subcontracted out to other companies at varying rates. He declined to provide a range of rates, but confirmed some subcontractors have been paid $37 a ton.

A lot of work is required to clean up storm debris properly, Shawn said.

“We've done four of these,” he said. “We're practiced at it. …. After it hits, we have guys walk out, and we pick up propane bottles, gasoline cans …. We have a place to store all that stuff. We look for things like pool chlorine. Pool chlorine and brake fluid is instant fire. ... We're picking out white goods. We're doing recycling. We're draining the Freon out of air conditioners. We're draining the Freon out of ice boxes. We're doing everything FEMA correct.”

Oklahoma City also is following FEMA rules, Lewellyn said.

Shawn said Silver Star also is giving the city of Moore back $12 a ton for certain types of recycled materials. He estimated the city could save between $1 million and $1.5 million on recycled materials alone.

Shawn said because he lives and works in the community, city officials know they can count on him to do a good job.

“I go to church with these people, and I'm going to be there,” he said. “Some of these storm chasers just come in and go. I'm not that way. ... We really take pride in managing and doing a good job, and when we're done, we think it will show.”

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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