IOWA DERECHO 2020

Cedar Rapids contracts with Wisconsin company for tree debris removal after derecho

City estimates it will take a month to pass all streets

A crew from Wisconsin-based Jamey Flannery Trucking works to clean up debris from fallen trees along Kilimanjaro Drive N
A crew from Wisconsin-based Jamey Flannery Trucking works to clean up debris from fallen trees along Kilimanjaro Drive NE in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The city has contracted with a Wisconsin-based trucking company to remove the high volume of debris from trees downed by the Aug. 10 derecho’s hurricane-force winds as crews continue clearing fallen trees for several more weeks.

Jamey Flannery Trucking began hauling debris Tuesday morning. The company will work on tree debris collection and disposal, as the city has lost 65 percent of its tree canopy from the storm.

“We are transitioning their forces into our operations,” city Public Works Director Jen Winter said Thursday. “As their crews begin their first neighborhood sweeps, we’ll soon have a better idea of how long the entire process may take.”

The city also awarded has contracts to Brandenburg Drainage Inc. and Timberline Clearing for grinding trees, and DRC Emergency Services to collect and dispose of storm-damaged debris.

These contracts will remain in effect until crews have finished removing and hauling debris. The city does not have an exact cost for the work, but the current contractors will be paid based on the volume of material hauled and processed.

As of last week, before new crews arrived, the city was using nine private contractors. Winter told The Gazette that if those companies were not the low bidder, they would stop work and the new contractor would step in to do the work other contractors were doing.

Now that the city is moving out of the initial response phase, Winter said the switch is essentially a transition from work with companies the city contracted with using its emergency purchasing powers to bidded contract work.

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“There are some of these debris removal contractors that that is what they do … so we expected that the low bid would probably come from a larger contractor whose primary work is debris removal,” Winter said.

She anticipates some efficiencies in coordinating with one contractor instead of several, but said the other contractors have done a “fantastic job” working long hours to haul large amounts of debris.

Final costs are not yet available for previous contractor work.

Cedar Rapids officials also continue to coordinate with the city’s crews and Iowa Department of Transportation to haul debris.

Fire Chief Greg Smith reported to the City Council on Tuesday that some Iowa DOT crews have been released to assist other communities.

As of Thursday, 86 pieces of equipment and staff from the Iowa DOT are assisting Cedar Rapids’ debris removal efforts, though that number changes frequently.

Crews have completed an initial pass of about 22 percent of Cedar Rapids streets so far. Winter said it is difficult to predict the timeline for completing the first pass of all streets because of varied conditions on each street and the unknown volume of debris that has yet to be collected. City officials estimate it will take a month to do so.

After completing that first pass, crews will return to all streets again to collect additional debris.

Crews are working to haul debris piles that are easily accessible by crane operations and large gravel equipment, she said.

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Work is underway in about 35 percent of zones, or subsets of the city’s four quadrants, and the city is updating a map on its website to show where crews are working.

Residents also may continue to take debris to the drop-off site at the northwest corner of F Avenue and First Street NW from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., though they cannot pick up debris from the location for personal use, Winter said.

“This is a major disaster recovery effort, which has impacted our entire city,” Winter said. “It will take a significant amount of time to complete.”

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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