By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Federal and state officials agreed Friday to pay for removal of stumps and rootballs until July 26, reversing the position taken earlier this week.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi’s state-level counterpart agreed to pay for removal of heavy tree chunks, some weighing more than a ton.
Disagreements related to whether federal and state governments should pay the costs for unwanted tree materials from the April 28 tornado led to heavy lobbying of local officials and heated discussions.
Approval from state and federal leaders to pay costs of this larger debris includes a caveat. They say stumps placed at right-of-ways by contractors hired by property owners is not eligible for federal reimbursements to local governments.
However, the heavy debris will qualify for reimbursement if volunteers from nonprofit or other charitable organizations place it at public right-of-ways. Debris monitors contracted with local governments have responsibility for determining if contractors place stumps for pickup.
“They can see a contractor working on a property and a lot of stumps there the next day,” said Greg Flynn, spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
Construction debris and concrete slabs are also not eligible.
Tupelo records show 168 stumps picked up by Friday while many more remain. Officials estimate more than 100 to be removed in unincorporated Lee County.
FEMA defines stumps and rootballs 24 inches in diameter as separate from other debris from other tree parts.
Tupelo officials plan to focus resources on stump and rootball removal beginning the week of July 14. However, Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson said county property owners should have all debris placed on public right-of-ways by July 20.
No disagreement ever existed on whether the heavy debris would be picked up, just which levels of government would pay the costs.
“Our job is to take care of the citizens of Tupelo and we’re doing that,” Tupelo Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis said.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reports 85 percent of debris has been removed statewide from public right-of-ways.