Joplin seeking to expedite tornado debris removal

Friday, June 24, 2011 | 5:03 p.m. CDT; updated 3:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

JOPLIN — Joplin residents whose homes were destroyed in the May 22 tornado are being urged to make provisions to clear debris or face a nuisance declaration.

The city council on Thursday authorized an "administrative abatement process" aimed at clearing homes with severe damage, specifically homes with one wall or less standing.

The Joplin Globe reported that the move would affect just over 1,400 residential properties where no steps have been taken to address the debris — either by getting rid of it or signing a right-of-entry form that allows the federal government to clear the rubble.

The city hopes to meet an Aug. 7 deadline for debris removal that would ensure the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost.

City Attorney Brian Head said the measures target only what is being identified as debris removal and not the demolition of residential properties where more than one wall is standing.

A notice identifying the potential nuisance properties will be published in the newspaper, giving owners seven-day notice of a public hearing presided over by members of the city council. Property owners will have the opportunity to speak at the hearing.

If council members determine a nuisance, they will order it cleared. The decision will be published, allowing another seven-day notice period. Right-of-entry forms could be signed at any time before the property is actually cleared.

"This is the last step in trying to get people to clear their properties," City Manager Mark Rohr said. "We'd rather they take care of it themselves, get insurance to pay for it or sign the ROE."

The Globe said right-of-entry forms have been received for about 1,400 properties, and debris at another 1,000 sites have been cleared by landowners, insurance or volunteers, according to estimates from public works officials.

Landowners will pay the cost of debris removal if a nuisance is declared, the price tag ranging from $1,500 for smaller lots to $4,000 for lots larger than one-half acre.


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