Hancock County Supervisor Says Not Enough Locals Hired For Debris Cleanup

Frustrations about debris removal boiled over Monday morning at the Hancock County Board of Supervisors meeting. Some supervisors want to fire the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from overseeing debris removal work, because they say not enough of the work is being done by locals.

The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers estimates debris removal in Hancock County will be complete by May 31st.

"We're picking up about 30,000 cubic yards of debris each day. So, typically, you're looking at about 500 trucks and a couple hundred loaders out there working every day in this county," John Martin with the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers said.

But that's not good enough for District Four Supervisor Steve Seymour.

"I don't care how many crews you've got," Seymour told Martin.

Seymour says the Corps is not doing enough to make sure local contractors get a fair share of the debris removal business.

"I told you the way I felt the other day and unless somebody can explain to me otherwise, I'm going to make a motion to go out for a competitive bid on it," Seymour said.

Seymour says the biggest, most lucrative debris jobs are going to out of state contractors. When John Martin with the Corps disagreed, the discussion got heated.

"The best I can tell you is there are 24 local, Hancock County businesses working out there," Martin said.

"And that's not a whole lot to make happy," Seymour said.

"And they have anywhere from one to three or four crews out there, depending on how big of an operation they are," Martin said. "To date, they have contractor earnings of anywhere from $10,000 per company up to several million dollars per company. So local Hancock businesses are getting work."

Next to Martin on the hotseat was Randy Perkins, the CEO of AshBritt. That's the company the Corps hired to divvy up the debris removal jobs.

"We do not want the board to vote the Corps of Engineers out because that votes us out. I don't know what we need to do to fix the problem," Perkins said.

AshBritt's $500 million contract in Hancock County requires it hire local subcontractors. Perkins believes his company is fulfilling that.

"My goal is to convince this Board to let the Corps stay, so we can stay and try to appease the local contractors, which is the right thing to do. If I can't do it, I fail and we leave," Perkins said.

Late Monday afternoon, Hancock County Supervisors told the Army Corps and AshBritt they had until next week to get more local contractors to work clearing debris. Supersivors will appoint a county representative to work in AshBritt's office to help make that happen.

by Al Showers