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Storm debris costs set in stone

Just in time for the storm season, the Oak Harbor City Council adopted the city’s first formal policy in dealing with storm debris on private property.

Under the new rule passed at last Wednesday’s meeting, city residents can request a special pickup of the branches and other loose materials left behind in the wake of windy weather. The cost will be $25.70 a trip, plus $6.50 per yard.

Public Works Superintendent Cathy Rosen said the city was in need of a regular policy because in the past disposal of storm debris was decided on a case-by-case basis. The work wasn’t budgeted and the staff and equipment time wasn’t figured into the department’s annual work program.

During last year’s four major storms, Rosen said, the city expended $22,000 in disposal costs, staff time and equipment time on picking up branches for a small number of people.

“When you look at our entire customer base,” Rosen said, “it is used by relatively few city customers at an enormous cost.”

Also, Rosen said there was a problem with people not following the rules and leaving massive piles of branches on city streets, which creates safety issues. She included photos of giant-sized piles in city streets in the council’s agenda packet.

Councilwoman Sheilah Crider pointed out that it would be a safety risk for city employees to have to hoist around the 30-foot trees that were left for them to deal with.

Councilman Paul Brewer said the city should come up with a contingency fund to deal with such emergencies, but Councilman Jim Campbell pointed out that fees would have to be raised for everyone to cover such a fund.

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