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Lula expects to recoup most of storm cleanup costs from FEMA

The city of Lula is hopeful it can recoup from the federal government as much as 80 percent of the cost of cleaning up after the remnants of Hurricane Irma.

The city is still cleaning up after Irma whipped through the area and toppled some 257 trees, City Manager Dennis Bergin said at a Lula City Council meeting Monday night.

“We’re probably not even counting all the trees that’s in everybody’s backyards,” Bergin said.

Bergin said he’s been negotiating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Hall County Emergency Management on getting the city’s costs reimbursed. Bergin did not give any hard numbers, adding that the tally and cleanup continues.

To help with that cleanup, city council voted unanimously to contract Greystone tree service to help with tree removal. Greystone submitted a low bid of $10,100 .

“This is to remove trees hung up on the park, the water tank and the cemetery,” Mayor Milton Turner said.

Bergin said it’s his understanding that the city could recover up to 80 percent of the the cost of tree removal upon approval by FEMA.

“The good news is there’s an opportunity to recover that cost from FEMA,” Bergin said. “We’re in conversation with them. Everything has a cost. If we run a chain saw for eight hours, or any of our equipment, we get so much reimbursement per hour. The  chipper that we run, we get so many dollars per hour and that sort of thing. We haven’t totaled all that up, and we’re not done yet. The bulk of the work was finished last week.”

Bergin said Greystone won’t be available to begin work until Oct. 25 because the company is tied up with other jobs, as are most tree companies.

Council also voted to switch the employee health insurance plan. Officials terminated coverage through the Georgia Municipal Association and went with a Humana plan that offers employees credits for making healthy choices..

Bergin said the GMA rate went up 7 percent this year and rose 2 percent last year. He said the city pays more than $7,000 a month for employees that opt into the plan. He said some of the city’s 10 employees may take insurance with their spouse’s plan.

“We can’t afford to continue to afford 9 percent increases,” Bergin said. “We’ve held the lid as much as we can. We just can’t continue to absorb that type of number.”

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