Friday, June 24, 2011

Contractors required to properly manage tornado debris removal

(From the City of Joplin)

One month after the May 22, 2011 tornado, removal of storm debris continues to be in full swing throughout Joplin. With that fact, city officials have one important message: If you are a contractor who has been hired to remove and haul away debris, don’t cut corners and push it to the curb. Take it away and dispose of it properly!

“Contractors from all over are doing an important job by helping us clean up our city and we appreciate their work on behalf of our residents,” said Leslie Jones, Joplin Finance Director. “However, we believe that there are some contractors who are charging customers to clear and haul away tornado debris but instead, are pushing it to the public rights-of-way to be picked up under the government-funded program. That kind of short-cutting is not acceptable here in Joplin.”

The city, state and federal governments currently are paying the costs for debris removal from public rights-of-way in tornado-damaged areas throughout Joplin for a limited time. This effort is being managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as part of the tornado disaster recovery.

Commercial debris cannot be moved to public rights-of-way because it’s not eligible for pickup using government-funded contractors. Instead, this debris must be hauled to a proper disposal site.

City officials point out that charging to haul away debris and then pushing it to the curbside for removal is fraud and that they will seek prosecution for suspected cases of this activity. Federal criminal charges also may apply.

Property owners who are hiring contractors to clear debris should make sure to:

§ Use only licensed, bonded and insured contractors;

§ Get more than one bid, if possible, to get the best possible price;

§ Ask for written estimates and/or a written contract that clearly spells out the scope of the work to be performed and the price.

Contractors who want to do debris-removal work in Joplin should make sure to:

§ Obtain a license to do business in the City of Joplin before beginning any work. Licenses are available from the city’s finance department at Joplin City Hall, 602 South Main St., 3rd Floor, Joplin, MO. Business hours are: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

§ Use fair and reasonable pricing. Abuses will not be tolerated. The City of Joplin will report cases of excessive pricing to the Missouri Attorney General for review and possible criminal action. Federal criminal charges also may apply.

§ Perform professional services as promised.

 If the services are to clear and haul away loose tornado debris from private property, the debris must be taken to an appropriate disposal site. In most cases, this is a properly permitted landfill. This debris CANNOT be pushed to the public rights-of-way or dumped on other public property.

 If the services are to only clear loose, tornado debris from private property the debris can be placed on the public right-of-way for a limited time. In this case, debris must be segregated by: vegetative, white goods, electronics, household hazardous waste, construction debris and small, motorized equipment.

State and federal debris monitors are out in full force and are spot-checking contractor work to ensure compliance with this requirement. If a contractor is observed pushing debris to the public rights-of-way, their business license is subject to being revoked, preventing them from working in the City of Joplin for the foreseeable future.

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