Hancock County Debris Cleanup Is Slow Work

Four months after Hurricane Katrina Devastated most of Hancock County, only a third of the debris has been removed. You can still find piles of debris along the roadsides and collapsed homes in many parts of the county.

"I'd give it an 'F' cause four months have gone by and there's stills debris all over the place in our neighborhood," Bay St. Louis resident Marsha Retkowski said.

"I would probably give it a grade of about 'C.' The removal of the property on the side of the road seems to be pretty good, but as far as getting into the inner structure, right of entry seems to be non-existent," Waveland resident Larry St. Mars said.

Leana Marshall, of the Pearlington community, had a similar response.

"D+, cause they're trying to get it out, but it's not really going as fast as we all need it to go."

Hancock County had an estimated 7 million cubic yards of roadside debris following the storm. To date, only about 2.5 million cubic yards has been pick-up, and that concerns Hancock County Administrator Tim Kellar.

"I know from our end with the position the county is in, we've pushed every button, made every phone call we could make to expedite this... We can't make it go faster."

The scores are much lower when it comes to right of entry. That's the clean-up on private property.

"We've got approximately 8,000 right of entry applications that have come in to us. Of those, over 5,000 have been inspected by the Corps of Engineers. Some 1500 have been turned over to contractors to be cleaned. Only some 400 have been cleaned up to this point. Certainly, certainly not what we were hoping for and not what we would expect."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the clean up in Hancock County. Leaders say they've explored several other options, but Kellar says this is the most cost efficient.

Dropping the Army Corps would mean the county would have to pay the costs up front and wait for reimbursement from FEMA. County leaders say that's just not practical.

by Al Showers