FORT WAYNE — As city crews begin their second sweep through neighborhoods to pick up storm debris, Fort Wayne officials said the cost of those storms is approaching $2 million.
Frank Suarez, spokesman for Mayor Tom Henry, on Thursday said the latest update on the city’s costs related to the high windstorms a month ago was nearly $1.8 million – a number he said is likely to rise.
On June 29, hurricane-force winds ripped through the city, causing thousands of residents to lose power for days and destroying or damaging thousands of trees.
Suarez said the costs incurred by the city include $900,000 spent hiring contractors to help remove debris from city streets. Residents were allowed to move the debris from their private trees to the curb to be collected or they could take the limbs to one of three drop-off locations. That debris created mountains of wood at Swinney, Shoaff, Tillman and McMillen parks – even though McMillen was not listed as an official dumping site.
The city hired Graber Lumber to grind up and dispose of that wood, a job that has been completed at Shoaff Park. Natalie Eggeman, parks spokeswoman, said crews are expected to be finished at Swinney early next week and then move to one of the other two parks to begin chipping all of the debris.
The work to chip the wood was expected to cost between $50,000 and $60,000, according to parks officials.
The nearly $2 million in costs does not include $600,000 in damage to city buildings or vehicles, Suarez said, as that will likely be covered by insurance. The city costs do include extra fuel, overtime and equipment rentals needed to deal with the storm. Contractors turn in bills weekly, meaning the price is likely to rise until the cleanup is complete.
Crews on Wednesday began making their second pass through city neighborhoods to collect debris. The most recently updated map on the city’s website shows several areas still receiving their first debris pickup as of Tuesday. Residents were instructed to have their debris at the curb by Wednesday to ensure it would be collected by city crews.
Suarez said he was unsure whether a majority of the debris had been collected during the first sweep, but said he has seen fewer branches along streets recently.
Parks Director Al Moll previously said his department will need to ask for additional money to help pay for all the costs of cleanup.
The work is expected to be completed by September, officials said.