Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't panic. Tree limbs in yards do not constitute an emergency

The Morning News' report on Tuesday's agenda-setting session for next Tuesday's Fayetteville City Council meeting included talk of using reserved money to gather ice-storm strewn tree limbs from resident's yards.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan and members of the council were correct a year ago and again this past fall in insisting on passing a balanced city budget without dipping into the reserve.
With businesses closing and workers being laid off by even the most successful companies, this is no time to hire outside contractors to haul away limbs.
The wind and rain outside as I write this tell me that a lot more limbs may shake out of the trees before the day is out. Those will add to the pile. But once they hit the ground, they will not amount to an emergency.
The birds will be feeding off them and, if dragged away from the street, they may actually provide some habitat for wildlife. A lot of local people are collecting wood for their wood stoves and fireplaces and some are collecting enough to sell.
There will be damage from Tuesday night's storms but new widespread power outages won't be as likely because of the big pruning that nature provided a few days back.
Yes, I know that some irate people want their yards back to the English-manor look and don't care who sacrifices to pay for it.
But we'll all pay if we spend reserved money for superficial, unnecessary vegetation removal.
The city government might get busy on a requirement that all new buildings have multiple ways of maintaining a livable temperature in winter.
The central-heating system that became popular after World War II and which later became the central heating and air-condition system was the reason a lot of people who live in perfectly good apartments, condos and houses were seeking shelter elsewhere.
Simple natural-gas heaters that do not require an electric-powered blower to heat a room kept plenty of people warm.
And ovens that are easy to light with a match when the electricity is off allowed cooking and warmed another room for many.
Instead of worrying about whether houses will meet decorative standards or many other insignificant standards in the approval process, let's see that new buildings are safe and will be a true shelter from a storm, with or without electrical power. And let's see that tornados can't just blow them apart.
Pretty was important this winter. Let's start thinking about what is important, what the real necessities are. The city's reserved money, like a family's savings account, must be used ONLY for necessities.

Weather proves Mayor Jordan and city council correct when they refused to include reserved money in budget for 2009 operation of city government

Cleanup Bill Has Officials Worried
By Skip Descant
FAYETTEVILLE -- Preliminary back-of-the-envelope calculations could have Fayetteville ponying up $2 million to $3 million for storm cleanup.
"It's massive dollars. Our portion is going to be large," Paul Becker, Fayetteville finance director, told the City Council on Tuesday during its agenda session.
This reflects the city's portion of the costs related to the record ice storm to move through the area two weeks ago. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent, with the state picking up 12.5 percent.
Fayetteville has about $3 million set aside for disaster, and another $2.5 million in reserve. Another $5 million is in another rainy-day nest egg. But this one requires council approval before the administration can spend any of it.
"We do have to manage the cash flow component," said Don Marr, chief of staff for Mayor Lioneld Jordan. And what also has to be considered, Marr added, is FEMA's reimbursement schedule.
"I may have to ask the council to go into this, depending on how FEMA reimburses us," Jordan explained. "It's serious."
The city will also have to front the state's share of the cleanup costs before that money flows from Little Rock.
"Another thing is the state reimbursement doesn't come until later," he added. "So we've got to come up with 25 percent, right off the bat."
The city will be bid in quadrants, say officials, with six bids being put out for advertising today. Four bids will be taken for each quadrant, with one bid taken for a monitoring firm, and another for a firm to manage the collection sites. The pickup process will involve three separate passes in front of homes over a four-month period.
"So, there's going to be multiple passes through areas," said Dave Jergens, Fayetteville wastewater director.
"You have a lot of people who've taken things out to the curb, and they have no more place to put it, but there's still more to put out," said Kyle Cook, a Fayetteville alderman from Ward 2, expressing some of the concerns many residents still have.
A popular question -- which no one seems to have firm answers on -- is the issue of personal assistance by FEMA.
After the meeting Adella Gray, a council member from Ward 1, expressed the concerns of one of her constituents, a small-business owner, who lost income during the storm.
Those are questions the administration hopes to get answered Wednesday morning when it meets with FEMA officials at the Washington County Sheriff's Department.
Weather proves Mayor Jordan and city council correct when they refused to include reserved money in budget for 2009 operation of city government


Lessie said...

I hear that Matthew Petty and Robert Rhoads also want to dip into the reserve funds to send Steve Rust on a prospecting trip to Sweden. They do not care much for a balanced budget or careful spending, even with tax revenues sinking and storm costs rising.

aubunique said...

Lessie, you make some good points. It takes some wheeling and dealing to get something done in the state legislature.
Just having good ideas, even well-documented ideas, does not guarantee putting them into action is an automatic process.
If our governor would use his bully pulpit and negotiating power to protect the environment, some progress might be made.

Anonymous said...

Aub, you may be a little tough on those residents who believe that the television show "Monk" is about a perfectly normal hero.
A little research may show you that the percentage of the population who value neatness above Godliness is pretty high. Obsessive compulsiveness is the norm for many.
You may like rabbits and wild birds in your yard, but something approaching a majority think that rabbits not in cartoons have no value in society and that wild birds should be seen only at designated feeders with politically correct bird seed. Where they roost and where they nest are not the concern of many birdfeeding enthusiasts.
The city administration will get enthusiastic support from the council to waste the reserve moving limbs, which as you point are no longer a danger, straight to the mulch grinder to create those little sterile islands for planting trees and shrubs imported from asia.

City folk prefer to see the wild things on discovery channel or in a zoo when on vacation far away.

Austin said...

Aubrey, you're starting to grow on me - I've been placing brush piles all around my back yard, and I'm enjoying my new bluebird population. I think it's a waste for the city to spend resources taking limbs from private citizens that are perfectly cabable of removing them on their own (or staying in place, which, as you say, may actually be preferred).