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The City of Cairo is dipping deep into its cash reserves yet again to cover the expenses related to storm recovery.
After withdrawing approximately $1 million last fall in the weeks following Hurricane Michael, the Cairo City Council voted 4-0 Monday night to authorize city manager Chris Addleton to draw down up to $750,000 to cover recovery efforts from the March 3 tornado. Councilman Demario Byrden was absent Monday night.
According to Addleton, the city is expected to be reimbursed between $700,000 and $750,000 of the $1 million it spent on Hurrricane Michael recovery and repairs, but there is no guarantee any of the expenses related to the tornado will be reimbursed.
“Without a federal emergency declaration, we are unlikely to be reimbursed for our expenses related to the tornado,” Addleton said.
The city manager originally asked permission to withdraw up to $500,000, but Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas questioned if that would be sufficient to cover all of the storm related expenses. Douglas suggested authorizing up to $750,000 and the city manager could draw down what was needed.
“The vendors have got to be paid regardless,” Douglas said.
Addleton reported that Gov. Brian Kemp had extended the state of emergency declaration in Grady County through Friday, which means Georgia Department of Transportation personnel will remain in the city helping with storm cleanup.
“The DOT has done a fantastic job. I don’t know how we would do it without them. We certainly will be able to remove the storm debris a lot quicker thanks to their assistance,” Addleton said.
According to the city manager, Taylor Waste Services has also contracted with sub contractors Trees R Us of Lithia Springs and Will Jones of Laid Back Farms of Grady County to assist in debris removal.
“Over 800 tons has already been put in our C&D trench at the landfill and there may be another 800 tons out there. It’s not little stuff and that’s why we really need the help of DOT and these sub contractors,” Addleton said.
Residents are being asked to put as much of the storm debris to the side of the street by this weekend as possible.
“Don’t wait to do it. Please help us by getting as much of it to the street by Saturday as possible,” Chris Taylor of Taylor Waste said Tuesday.
City residents are also requested to trim fallen trees into sections of seven feet or less.
The city is continuing to waive tipping fees at the landfill for residents to take storm debris to the landfill themselves.
The city manager would not predict when the clean up effort would be completed.
As of Monday, 67 utilities customers did not have electricity. According to Addleton, the remaining services to be restored involved repairs being made by electricians or the home or business was destroyed. “As electricians fix meter boxes and mast arms we are out turning the power back on,” Addleton said.
Addleton continued to sing the praises of the city personnel, as well as Grady EMC, area Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia cities, Grady County volunteer firefighters, community volunteers, churches and area law enforcement personnel for their assistance last week. “We couldn’t have done it without help,” the city manager said.
“We were real lucky there were no deaths or more injuries,” Councilman Douglas said.
Councilman Bobby Gwaltney said that the community came together and is still doing so. “I’m thankful no one was hurt or killed,” Gwaltney said.
Councilman Jerry Cox said the storm hit closer to home for him with the homes of his sister and nephew in southeast Cairo being significantly damaged. Cox said the response from the city manager down to the department directs to the city staff had been “outstanding.” He also praised the response of local and area churches, restaurants and others who had contributed to the storm relief effort.
Cox and Douglas also both complained about people who ignored barricades or road blocks to “gawk” at the storm damage. Councilman Cox urged Police Chief Keith Sandefur to instruct his officers to arrest those who were observed going around road blocks. He said that people needed to stay away in the aftermath of such disastrous events.
Mayor Booker Gainor said “hats off to everyone” for their effort in responding to and recovering from the storm. “This is an unfortunate time,” he said.