The piles of wood collected at five sites around town will be there for a while.

The city of Grand Island will hire companies to chip the trunks and branches brought to the alternate disposal sites following the Aug. 7 storm. The city can’t burn the tree debris at the alternate sites “and hauling’s fairly expensive, so we’re going to chip the trees,” said Public Works Director John Collins.

Collins hopes to start advertising the work in a couple of days. The ads have to run for a week, after which the contracts will be awarded. Collins hopes the sites will be cleaned up by the end of October. It partly depends on how much time the contractors have to do the work.

Meanwhile, Solid Waste Superintendent Jeff Wattier found a silver lining in the aftermath of the big storm.

The debris is being burned at the yard waste site, which is doing a pretty good job of keeping up with all of the trees and branches people have brought to the site.

“None of us really want to see any more rain like we’ve seen this year,” Wattier said. But the rain has “kind of been our saving grace with what happened with the storm, because everything’s so wet we’ve had really good conditions for burning.”

Even with the wet trees, the wood in the burn pile “takes off and burns pretty good,” Wattier said.

The moisture allows the yard waste site to do the burning. “If we were in a dry year right now, there’s no way we’d be able to get a burn permit,” Wattier said. “The conditions have to be just right for us to be able to burn.”

The transfer station and yard waste site are at 5050 West Potash Highway. When the yard waste site was overwhelmed following the storm, the city decided to open the alternative disposal sites.

The alternative sites were “an absolute lifesaver for us,” Wattier said. “We would have never been able to have handled everything all on our own.”

The first day after the storm, before the alternate sites opened, the line outside the yard waste site was at least a mile and a quarter long, Wattier said.

Even though the alternate sites closed last week, the yard waste site hasn’t really had “much trouble with long lines,” Wattier said.

“I wouldn’t say we’re back to normal as far as tree disposal,” Wattier said. Business is still two to three times what it was before the storm. But it’s “not near as bad as what it was two weeks ago,” he said.

The official alternate sites were outside Abundant Life Christian Center, east of Westridge Middle School, north of Starr Elementary School and at 3235 S. Locust St.

People also started dumping debris at a piece of property next to land owned by Chief. The city will clean up that property as well, Collins said.

The cleanup following the storm “went really well,” Collins said. Branches were picked up by the Street Department and law enforcement, among others.

Abundant Life was among the most helpful. Not only did the church open up its yard for public use, “but they had people there helping guide traffic and even a little loader pushing the trees up,” Collins said.

Why can’t the wood be burned at the alternate disposal sites?

“The locations are not in areas where you’re allowed to burn. In other words, it might present a danger to the city,” Collins said. “We checked with (the Fire Department), and they were not comfortable with any of them.”

People are free to continue bringing limbs to the yard waste site.

The service is free to Grand Island resident customers, not businesses or contractors, Wattier said.

Grand Island has two open burn periods each year — one beginning in April and the other in October. People need to purchase a $10 burn permit in order to participate in each 14-day period.

Those periods are limited to owners or occupants of private one- and two-family dwellings. Leaves and brush indigenous to the property may be burned where no nuisance or hazard is created.

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I am the Cops & Courts Reporter for the Grand Island Independent. I welcome news tips!

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