Southwick storm cleanup continues

SOUTHWICK – The Select Board agreed last night to extend the town’s contract with FEMA-approved contractor Ashbritt to continue tree and brush removal related to the pre-Halloween snowstorm.
Board Chairman Fred Arnold and members Arthur Pinnel and Russ Fox agreed to offer the company $600,000 to continue work from today until next Monday. Cost for the work the company has done so far is $1.1 million, which includes picking up 28,268 cubic yards of debris and removing 1,045 hanging trees and 70 leaning trees.
“That equals about $160,000 a day for the first pass through town,” said Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Jeffrey Neece. “There were a few roads they didn’t get to, such as North Loomis and Mort Vining Road.”
Neece said there are streets around the lakes that Ashbritt cannot access because of low wires and narrow streets. He said he did a review of the entire town and compiled a list of all the brush piles in town.
“People are getting debris out to the street and there are a number of areas we need to get to for a second pass,” said Neece, adding that the deadline for residents to bring debris to the street is tomorrow.
Neece estimates there is an additional 15,000 cubic yards of debris that need to be removed.
“My thought is we need to bring Ashbritt back in for a second run,” said Neece.
Neece said the DPW would get to the areas Ashbritt cannot reach.
“We’ll get to them and bring the chipper,” he said.
Emergency Management Coordinator Charles Dunlap offered an update from MEMA and FEMA.  He said FEMAwill likely approve a 75 percent reimbursement for local towns affected by theOct. 29 storm. He also said FEMA is expected to reimburse 100 percent of cleanup costs incurred in the first 70 hours after the storm.
“The feeling is that we’ll be getting it,” said Dunlap of the reimbursement, “but don’t ask for anything else – if there are more snowstorms, we have to take care of it. FEMA money is running out.”
Once the board approved the contract extension last night, Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart called Ashbritt and its monitoring company and set up a contract discussion and signing for this morning. He said he would work with police to schedule detail officers on main roads. Crews from
Ashbritt were expected to hit some streets this morning.
“I suggest we try to get this done ASAP and get these guys on side streets that don’t need police detail tomorrow,” said Fox.
The board hopes the streets will be completely cleared in a week.

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