Even if your home doesn’t sit behind a gate, you could still pay for Hurricane Matthew debris cleanup in private neighborhoods.
Preliminary estimates recently presented to Beaufort County officials put the cost of removing those debris piles at nearly $300,000 — a figure that is expected to grow and will not be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
While FEMA has approved applications from the county to reimburse a portion of the cost to clear many roadways — including those in more 70 private communities — work done in gated neighborhoods prior to that approval must be paid for out of pocket, county staffers say.
In the immediate aftermath of October’s storm, there were “a number of (private) communities reacting to the storm and they were cleaning the roads and stockpiling the debris” deputy county administrator Josh Gruber told members of the County Council’s Finance Committee. “But they were doing it before (the county) had gone to FEMA with the documentation for (reimbursement) approval.”
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Because the debris piles represent a potential public health emergency, the county has vowed “to remediate any health hazard they might pose” — regardless of whether the state or federal government ultimately reimburses the cost, Gruber said.
He said he “would not be surprised” if the county’s preliminary estimate of roughly $300,000 — which includes removal in neighborhoods on Fripp and Dawtaw islands, Moss Creek, and in Rose Hill Plantation — “is less than what (the total cost) ultimately ends up being.”
That cost does not include any private communities on Hilton Head Island, which has its own debris removal contract. If Hilton Head is included, the costs could be significantly more.
County administrator Gary Kubic said he expects the cost on the island to be “very large.” Projections put the total clean-up figure at significantly more than $50 million, but much of that amount is expected to be reimbursed.
It’s possible that the non-reimbursed costs for debris removal within private communities on Hilton Head Island could also eventually fall upon the shoulders of county taxpayers.
To pay for out-of-pocket storm cleanup costs — including debris removal in some private communities — the county could dip into it’s roughly $27-million reserve fund.
Beaufort County Council could then opt to raise property taxes countywide in order to replenish that fund, which would “effect every taxpayer and every corporation in Beaufort County,” Kubic said.
Other possibilities include passing some costs along to municipalities or using funds raised in an upcoming bond sale, officials say.
Gruber said “there are a lot of moving pieces still on the board,” including a pending request that the state dip into its own funds “to make local governments whole.”
He said the goal is to have all roadway debris picked up by the end of the February, but it might be several more months before costs are finalized and reimbursement money flows back into county coffers.