By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
With an estimated 125,000 cubic yards of storm debris to haul off, a City of Yukon contractor and city crews will take a break for the Thanksgiving holiday before resuming work full speed ahead.
Arbor Masters Tree Service, with support from Yukon Public Works personnel, has been removing broken tree branches and other storm debris since Nov. 2 in neighborhoods across the City of Yukon. An average of five large trucks have been canvassing the community daily.
“We were the first city that started picking up limbs,” Yukon City Manager Jim Crosby said. “We addressed it and have moved really quickly through the areas.
“We could have about 125,000 cubic yards that we’re going to have to address. Not all that will be done by Arbor Masters.”
Yukon residents have been piling storm debris curbside for contractor and city trucks to haul off. City officials now expect the neighborhood clean-up to be finished in late December.
“We could end up with 80,000 to 84,000 cubic yards on the first run,” Crosby said. “Then we’ll have the second run to try to get it all picked up.”
Yukon’s storm clean-up crews – both City of Yukon public works and Arbor Masters personnel – will stay home and not work during the Thanksgiving break.
When they return on the Monday after the holiday, Yukon’s city manager predicted they will “get their second wind” and “go strong until they finish that second pass.”
Assistant City Manager Tammy Kretchmar, at the Nov. 17th city council meeting, described the “incredible” efforts of city crews who have been working long hours, seven days a week.
“Our employees are doing a great job,” Kretchmar said.
The public is encouraged to stack their broken tree limbs and related rubbish parallel to the street within 10 feet of the curb, ensuring it is several feet away from trash carts, mailboxes, gas meters, and any overhead obstructions.
“We are getting notification out to people that we’re going through their area,” Crosby explained. “I know there’s some people who are frustrated, but there’s a lot of limbs out there and a lot of damage has been done.”
The tree damage caused by the untimely ice storm has been “horrendous,” Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby said.
“If they’re not there yet, they’re coming,” she tells anxious residents. “Our employees and Arbor Masters are working as hard as we can.”
KEEP IT IN-HOUSE?
With contractor costs already exceeding $200,000, some council members have asked whether City of Yukon crews could handle the rest of the storm debris pick-up themselves.
The city manager estimated it would take city personnel four to five times longer than the contractor to finish the massive task.
Complicating the situation has been recent positive COVID-19 tests and exposures among public works personnel, which has left the department about 70% staffed.
“We could but it would really put us in a bind,” Yukon Public Works Director Arnold Adams advised council members at a Nov. 12th special meeting.
There will be some “massive” debris piles from residents’ back yards that still must be picked up in neighborhoods that clean-up crews have already been through once, Adams noted.
“I think the second round will probably be 40-50% of what the first round was,” he estimated.
Yukon Public Works crews will clean up broken tree limbs from drainage ditches, road medians and local parks once the contractor completes the second round through neighborhoods.
Initially, Yukon city officials thought the clean-up effort would take about one month and be done by Thanksgiving.
Council members recently learned it will take several months to finish due to the extent of the tree damage incurred in the major ice storm during the week of Oct. 26.
Yukon’s city-wide clean-up may not be over until March.
WHY SO BAD?
The ice storm damage was so devastating because leaves were still on trees, which were weighed down with ice causing so many limbs to snap.
The city council, during an emergency meeting Oct. 28, approved renewing the City of Yukon’s contract with Arbor Masters for the emergency storm debris removal. The agreement was extended at the special council meeting Nov. 12.
The contractor was hired to haul off the broken tree limb and remove hanging limbs and hazardous trees.
Their final bill is expected to be $400,000-$500,000.
The City of Yukon has rented a tub grinder to mulch the copious quantity of debris (see related story). Other expenses include overtime for city employees, machines, tools, and fuel.
Once the Federal Emergency Management Agency declares Yukon a disaster area, the City of Yukon will be eligible to be reimbursed for storm-related costs through the federal (75%) and state (12.5%) governments.
Yukon residents who want to quickly remove storm debris from their properties have another option.
Yukon Public Works has a storm debris drop-off site near the southwest corner of Route 66 and Frisco Road, also known as the “sports park property”.
The site – which closes to the public Jan. 15 – is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for Yukon residents only with proof of residency.