BEAUREGARD, Ala. (WRBL) – On the two month anniversary of the devastating and deadly tornadoes in East Alabama, many Beauregard residents are frustrated when they see huge mounds of debris still littering the side of Alabama Highway 51, while many Lee County roadways have been cleared.
Like most days, Lee County Commissioner Robert Ham can be found on a tractor moving debris in storm-ravaged areas of Lee County. Friday, we met with Ham along Highway 51 where he was working to help a homeowner who lost his wife in the storm.
Just over his shoulder, along Alabama Highway 51, piles of storm debris remain stacked up along both sides of the road. Ham says debris removal efforts have stalled while the powers at be decide who’s going to pay to clear it out.
“I’ve had citizens call and ask me why isn’t this debris being picked up like county road debris. I tell them it’s because this is a state road. We are not allowed to work on the state road, not pick up trash or do anything. It’s the state’s responsibility. We have asked the state to come back and pick it up, and we have not gotten the response we are looking for. We need to get this stuff out of the way. The citizens deserve it. It’s a reminder of destruction and loss of life and death,” said Ham.
Tony Harris with Alabama Department of Transportation tells News, ALDOT conducted removal of debris left on the roadway or right of way right after the storms, but subsequent debris removal is not their responsibility.
“It is a long-standing policy of the department that additional debris placed on the right of way is the responsibility of the local government. The local government’s cleanup costs are reimbursable through FEMA, and the department has provided information to the county on how that process works,” said Harris.
Ham believes the debris makes traveling dangerous along the roadway. He expects removing piles along 51 between Lee Road 39 and 38 could cost up to $40,000. Ham says he refuses to allow the responsibility of payment fall upon private landowners.
“The solution of well it’s the private citizens’ responsibility is not acceptable. They have already lost all they have got,” said Ham.
Ham did visit Montgomery last week to ask local senators to see what they could do to help. In the meantime, Ham is clearing debris on his own time on his own dime. We will keep you updated on if and when a solution is found.