The News-Record

Ottawa County commissioners decided Wednesday to seek assistance from a federally certified debris expert before they make a second attempt to secure a contract for storm debris removal.

The decision comes after commissioners formally rejected all proposals submitted last week when county officials waived competitive bidding laws, called an emergency meeting and attempted to fast-track recovery from a Dec. 8 ice storm.

Additionally, commissioners will seek assistance from a Federal Emergency Management Agency attorney who specializes in issues regarding debris.

First Assistant District Attorney Ben Loring will make contact with the attorney and ask for guidance in structuring the language of the next generation of a the county's request for proposals - this time, opting to adhere to bidding regulations.

County officials will look to the debris expert to assess the volume of storm debris - which county officials said will help contractors to refine their proposals.

Oklahoma Emergency Management representative Ron Stokes met with commissioners Wednesday to answer questions regarding the process of federally assisted storm cleanup.

Questions regarding federal and state reimbursement processes and conflicting information offered by contractors seeking the debris job prompted the county's decision to scrap the initial plan.

Stokes confirmed that FEMA will reimburse the county for 75 percent of cleanup cost and the state will provide 12.5 percent.

The remaining 12.5 percent must be provided by the county - not to include in-kind labor. He said the county should document its cost in the cleanup effort and wait for FEMA's 75-percent reimbursement. The money generated from the reimbursement may cover the portion of the project cost that the county is responsible for.

Stokes also warned of a likely delay in obtaining state reimbursement.

“We have had nine disasters this year,” Stokes said. “We will be running out of money pretty quick. You will get your money … it is just a matter of when it will arrive.”