Trash not being picked up in gated communities because of FEMA rule

HOUSTON -- There are about 60 gated communities in Fort Bend County, and debris trucks have not been allowed to enter any of them because of a FEMA law that prohibits the county from entering onto private property, according to Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert.

"...Those roads belong to the property owners-they are private roads," Hebert said. "We are not allowed to enter onto private property by FEMA rules to pick up debris."

Hebert said the county requested a waiver for the rule the day after the rains from Hurricane Harvey ended, and have yet to hear back from the federal government.

"I am told that our request finally went up to Washington yesterday (Sept. 17)," Hebert said. "Hopefully they will wake up and do the right thing...(debris is just) sitting on the street, waiting for us to get a release from the federal government. And we are pushing it as hard as we can."

Herbert said Governor Greg Abbott's office and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp's Rebuild Texas initiative are both now involved.

"...If it was left up to them, we'd already have the permit we have to get Washington to sign off (on)," Hebert said. "But I'm not happy about it, people are hurting down here and it's a simple request."
Hebert said the county applied for the same waiver after Hurricane Ike in 2008, and that request was filled in a shorter amount of time.

"We were in the gated communities almost as quick as we were in the other communities," Hebert said of Ike. "But now we've been over a week waiting for permission to get into those gated communities. We will get in there as soon as we get the green light."

Hebert said debris removal is the county's biggest obstacle right now, even in non-gated communities. As of Monday, debris trucks had picked up 102,000 cubic yards of debris. Hebert said he estimates there is 500,000 cubic yards of debris in the county.

"...(It will take) 4-5 weeks getting it all picked up," Hebert said. "But debris trucks are very scarce, we have about two dozen working right now...We'd have more if we could find them."

Hebert said Harvey's far-reaching grasp coupled with the devastation Hurricane Irma brought just shortly thereafter has contributed to the scarcity of the trucks.

"Every debris hauler that's in the county is hauling debris somewhere, there just aren't any trucks we can find," Hebert said. "We are getting to folks as quickly as we can with the equipment we have in hand."

This story comes to us through our partnership with Community Impact Newspapers.
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