Houston’s mayor clashes with city council’s delay on a solution for the agonizing debris removal process

Jennifer Bryant looks over the debris from her family business destroyed by Hurricane Harvey Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Katy, Texas. Harvey rolled over the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, smashing homes and businesses and lashing the shore with wind and rain so intense that drivers were forced off the road because they could not see in front of them. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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The Houston City Council delayed action on a measure to improve the debris removal process across the storm-ravaged city.

As council members became heated over the slow removal process in their districts, Mayor Sylvester Turner argued higher rates and more competition are slowing the cleanup effort. He chastised council members for focusing on their specific districts.

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“No one is in a position right now to provide that specificity. There’s debris all over the city in large amounts,” Turner argued, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Everybody wants it out of their districts. I got that. But it’s citywide, not just district-specific.”

Debris is slowly being removed throughout the city, and stressed homeowners are complaining the process is moving too slowly. Turner explained to the council the city is having trouble attracting enough trucks into the area to remove the debris.

Part of the issue is the low bid rate approval for the service, which has failed to attract subcontractors. Additionally, Hurricane Irma’s destruction in Florida has created an additional need for debris removal.

Turner has reached a deal with FEMA to increase the bid rate for debris removal. The agency will also reimburse the city for 90 percent of the costs for debris removal.

While this deal will increase the number of debris removal trucks, speeding up the cleanup effort, it also places a larger financial burden on the city, increasing the cost of cleanup over the $260-million estimated price tag.

RELATED: Could Harvey mean Houston will get snow this winter?

As the council debated the issue, Councilman Larry Green from southwest Houston tagged the measure, delaying it by a week. While the other council members could have voted to overthrow the tag, they chose not to because of questions about the debris removal process.

The council will revisit the debate next week.

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