By Press Reporter Shannon Taylor
The Dresden special called meeting erupted last night after an argument broke out between alderman Gwin Anderson and mayor Jeff Washburn over debris pickup and possible litigation from property owners.
The meeting was called to address a bid for a monitoring contract for the debris pickup and an update on the Lamb’s situation with inspector David Kelly, but when discussion was called regarding a bid from Debris Tech, Anderson started asking questions that quickly led to an argument between him and the mayor.
Anderson asked if all the piles that were located around town and at the water tower would be FEMA eligible, including houses and churches that had been demolished and put by the side of the road or at the water tower to which Washburn responded that not all would be.
Anderson said, “What I’ve been hearing is that if people get it to the street then FEMA was going to take care of it. Is that not what you’ve been saying?”
Washburn stated that wasn’t 100% correct, but Anderson pressed that it was what Washburn had been saying.
Washburn stated that FEMA would skip over houses that were torn down and pushed to the street and that FEMA wouldn’t cover those costs.
Anderson said that certain churches and houses were piled at the water town and asked if FEMA was going to cover those and Washburn stated that they would not. Anderson asked if they needed a monitoring contract for that because Anderson said that those would be a 100% city expense and Washburn said that those would potentially be a city expense. Anderson questioned whether a good portion of that would be on the city to pay for and Washburn stated that he didn’t know.
Anderson exclaimed, “Who does?”
Washburn said, “I don’t know.”
Anderson said, “In your estimation how much is the city online for this?”
Washburn stated again that he did not know the answer to that question stating that he didn’t have the means to estimate the volume and weight. “I doubt if one of you sitting there have that means either.”
Anderson said, “If I was in your position, I would be looking for that answer. I’m not the administrator of this city. You are. I sit here and vote on proposals that come up to me and for the last six months you’ve been telling us FEMA was going to take care of this.”
Washburn was insistent that he had not stated that and Anderson was insistent that he had.
Anderson said, “Do we want to get into the southside of court square? Did we have anybody sign off on getting their property demolished?”
Washburn said that they had one person, Mr. Peeler and that Winstead had signed a request for demolition.
Regarding Winstead’s request for demolition, the Press received a copy of this and it was a request for demolition dated December 17 with the Baptist Association. This was not a request for demolition through the city’s contract for demolition that happened months later in April making this document irrelevant to the issue at hand.
Anderson asked Washburn if he had submitted documents to people for signatures and Washburn stated that documents were sent to everyone but only one person had signed before demolition was started. Washburn stated that Dickie Hutcherson had verbally consented.
Anderson said, “You’re a lawyer! Is that going to hold up?” Washburn said that he thought it probably would.
Anderson was concerned that the city was going to be out 100% on the demolition and open to litigation for going on to properties without approval.
Washburn said, “I’m sure that you’ll push that as much as you can.”
Anderson said, “I’m just looking out for the city, Jeff. You know, I’m thinking, goodness gracious, we’ve got a mayor as an attorney that’s going to be looking at all the stuff…”
Washburn interjected, “We had every one of those individuals here.”
Anderson said, “Yeah, but did they sign anything?”
Washburn responded that all of the other property owners came to the meetings as well except for Mr. Peeler. “They were all in agreement.”
Anderson said, “Unless they put their signature online, they didn’t agree to anything.”
Washburn interrupted, “When you get done with your political grandstanding, let’s move on.”
Anderson said, “It’s not political grandstanding Jeff. You’re not doing a good job in my opinion!”
Washburn stated that he held the same opinion about some of the alderman as well.
Anderson said, “When we go into stuff and you don’t get signatures and now we’re sitting here with piles of debris where you’ve been saying FEMA’s going to take care of it. What are you gonna do about…”?
Washburn interrupted him saying, “No I have not been saying that FEMA is going to take care of it!”
Anderson said, “Bull. That’s a bunch of bull! You have been. You have been in the Press. You have been on television saying that.”
Washburn stated that he had been saying that FEMA would reimburse them for the debris that’s picked up.”
Alderman Lyndal Dilday said, “You said landowners get it to the road, but they won’t go off of it.”
Washburn said, “No. No. Here’s what happened. If you recall from the very earliest thing I posted on out Facebook posts that if it was insured it was the responsibility of the homeowners to have it hauled off when they had the demolition done. The very first posts. From then on for a while, we did that. Then the information changed that we got from FEMA on what they would do and then you have no idea how difficult it’s been to get a straight answer out of FEMA.”
The Press was able to pull up posts from the City of Dresden’s Facebook page where Washburn had made four posts regarding debris pickup. The posts were dated February 25, March 10, March 31 and April 18. In the posts Washburn tells the public to get their debris to the side of the road for pickup when the cleanup contractor is awarded. He does not mention in any of the posts that some debris would not be picked up. At the last town hall meeting Washburn stated the importance of construction debris being placed by the roadside so it can be picked up. He said that the vegetative debris will probably be left until the construction debris has been picked up. FEMA does not allow contractors to go on to personal property, so debris must be moved to the roadside and in reach of a track hoe in order for pick-up to take place. At the February City Board Meeting Washburn stated that FEMA would only pay for something within fifteen feet of the street. Washburn did not make clear at the city board meetings, the town hall meeting or in the city’s Facebook posts that these debris piles being placed by the side of the road would be skipped over depending on FEMA regulations. He only reiterates the need for property owners to get debris piled to the side of the road for pickup.
Dilday said, “But it wasn’t told if they pushed their houses to the road that FEMA would get it?”
Washburn said,” I didn’t tell that.” He claimed that there was a volunteer going around telling people that. Later Washburn mentions Tommy Wilson as the volunteer.
Dilday asked if all the buildings that have been pushed to the side of the road the city would be liable for and Washburn said, “Potentially.”
Anderson asked what the dollar figure was that the city would be liable for and Washburn said, “The total estimated is about 1.3 million dollars. If FEMA pays 90% of it, it would be 90% of 1.5.”
Washburn said, “Let me tell you who is responsible for that and that was by agreement, is our contractor who tore those down and they hauled it to the water tower site with the understanding that it would later be hauled to a landfill.”
Anderson asked if Washburn had that in writing to which Washburn said, “No, I don’t.”
Anderson said, “How are we supposed to determine for this contractor we’re trying to vote on, which piles are we going to say is FEMA and which piles are we going to say is not? How? What’s your plan?”
Washburn said, “What FEMA advised us to do was piles that represented completely destroyed houses that were on the ground that would be a pick-up house. If it was a house that was demolished that would be a house that you should probably skip by and not pick up that.” Washburn said that the city has applied for individual assistance personal property clean-up from FEMA. He stated that with that, FEMA would come in and pay for people to have their properties cleaned up. He stated that this would be another means of having that clean-up done for property owners.
Alderman Ralph Cobb stated that there were two big piles at the sandpit and water tower. “How are we going to go through all that and tell who’s going to be what because, as of right now, you can’t, so city’s going to be liable for that.”
Washburn said, “No.”
Cobb said, “They’re not?”
Washburn said, “Shouldn’t be liable for 100% of it.”
Anderson said, “What percentage would you estimate?”
Washburn said, “I don’t have a clue. You tell me what you think.”
Anderson said, “I come to every meeting that you have. That’s my responsibility. Show me where I have any other responsibility other than to come in here as a committee. I have absolutely-look in the charter-zero power to do anything other than my membership of this board. I come in here and ask you questions. If you look at the charter, you’ve got the power to do these things. You’re the one who’s responsible for informing me. So don’t put it off on me that I’m not doing my job when I come to every dang meeting you got.”
Washburn told Anderson that he should be asking questions at those meetings instead of political grandstanding.
Anderson said, “I’m not political grandstanding. I’m finally figuring out how inept you are!”
The room got quiet for about 30 seconds and Anderson said, “You don’t like that?”
Washburn said, “No I don’t like it.”
Anderson said, “Okay. Say something then!”
Washburn said that he didn’t have to say anything, and Anderson said, “Okay. I find you inept. I find you irresponsible. I expect you to inform us. I expect you to show due diligence. And the fact that we tore down court square without getting a dang signature on anything. It’s going to be a miracle if we’re not in litigation. It’s going to be a miracle if we aren’t in litigation from your handling of this.”
Alderman Klutts stated that, “So really that is a request for but it wasn’t an authorization for demolition. Is that going to stand up and be the same thing as authorization?”
Washburn stated that Winstead had attended the meeting where the contract was voted on, but Klutts stated that none of the property owners voted on that. Washburn said that property owners may not have had the opportunity to vote on it, but that they were all present and had an opportunity to speak and object.
Klutts spoke about how Wilson was upset that night and that she didn’t get all her questions answered and Alderman Moore stated that she was not treated well and that somebody owed her an apology. Moore and Klutts are referring to the way Anderson treated Wilson at the board meeting where they voted to accept the bid for demolition. Klutts stated, “I do think she was treated poorly that night and I really feel bad that as a board we didn’t address that.” Klutts spoke later with the Press and stated, “She needs to know that some of the board members were in agreement with what Moore said and that a public apology should be issued from the mayor and board for the way she was treated.”
Klutts stated that because this was a special called meeting that the board needed to stick to the items on the agenda and the June board meeting would be the time to address the other issues being brought up.
Washburn continued that he and (County Mayor) Jake Bynum have not had a manual to go by and that they have been trying to follow FEMA’s guidelines. Washburn said that he has been asking questions and trying to help the citizens. “If you want to call that inept then go ahead and call it that. I don’t really care. I’m at that point. I’m going to do everything I can to help the citizens of this community.”
Concerning the debris pickup, Washburn said, “The city is responsible for hauling the vegetative debris off. FEMA’s not going to remove that. The city will be responsible for that. FEMA’s only going to be responsible for constructive debris.”
Dilday asked if what was pushed to the road wasn’t going to be picked up and Washburn said that they weren’t supposed to. “They will not compensate the city of Dresden for somebody who tore a house down and pushed it to the road.”
Klutts asked if every person was told that if they pushed a house to the road that we weren’t going to pick it up and Washburn said not everybody was told that. Washburn repeated that a volunteer was telling people that when he was demolishing houses. This volunteer, Tommy Wilson, Washburn said “had one set of information and we had a different set of information.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the bid for Debris Tech to be the monitoring contract for the debris pickup from FEMA. Debris Tech stated that the debris pushed to the road should be eligible. The Press is waiting to hear from Integrity Group who monitors things between FEMA and the city of Dresden to see if all the debris pushed to the roadside would, in fact, be eligible for pickup.
Concerning the issue between the Lambs and the building inspector. Kelly inspected the Lamb’s property on Saturday instead of Friday when Kelly stated that he would. The reason he inspected on Saturday was because of the rain on Friday. Kelly denied the Lamb’s request for occupancy due to the fact that the concrete was sloping in.
Klutts said that ever since she has been on the board that Kelly has been difficult to work with and that he wasn’t responsive to what the people in Dresden need when they need it.
Washburn stated, “Simply voting him out does not solve the problem here. The board cannot overrule his report. We would have to select another building inspector and have him make an inspection and then he’d have to issue the certificate of occupancy.”
Anderson said that Donnie Essary’s building was expanded and made bigger and CBR put up their new building without any inspection whatsoever. “This was new construction and the same criteria that we’re holding Mr. Lamb to was not held to these individuals.” Anderson said he thinks the city is at risk of treating individuals differently and that it’s a dangerous situation.
Moore questioned whether another inspector wouldn’t find the same thing that Kelly did. “Are you gonna try to get rid of him too? This guy’s following the code. That building’s going to have to be inspected by somebody else and it’s going to have to be passed.
Klutts made a motion to dismiss Kelly as the current building inspector and search for a new one and in the meantime try to hire an interim inspector. The motion was passed 4-2 with Anderson and Moore voting no.
Concerning the issues regarding debris pickup and litigation by property owners this is a developing story.