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City awaiting hurricane reimbursement
Debris piles
This file photo shows debris piles collected by the city of Richmond Hill (top) and Bryan County in the wake of Hurricane Matthew last fall.

Friday marks six months since Hurricane Matthew hit, and the city of Richmond Hill is completely done with the cleanup process.

The last of the debris, which as being stored at the county landfill, has been ground into mulch, according to information presented at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, and all that awaits to close out the process is reimbursement money from the state.

“We learned a lot during all this and we’re more than ready for the next one,” City Manager Chris Lovell said.

Matthew struck last Oct. 7, leaving about 12,000 customers countywide without power and downing trees of all sizes. The city began collecting yard debris within days, ultimately gathering some 30,000 cubic square yards. Charles Heino of Enviroworx, a private company that oversees public works for the city, said he anticipated it would take several weeks for contractors to finish grinding the debris into mulch, but the last pile was completed in five days.

“We are so far ahead of other municipalities it is unbelievable,” said Mayor Harold Fowler.

Assistant City Manager Scott Allison said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed its review of the city’s expenses and authorized payment. The money will pass through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re going to get about 80 percent back of what we spent on the process,” Allison said. “GEMA will pay about 75 percent of what we’re supposed to get, then do a final audit before releasing the rest of the money.”

Allison said the city spent about $500,000 on hurricane efforts, with the bulk of that coming from personnel costs.

“A lot of it was from our emergency response, all of the hours put in by the police and fire departments,” he said. “It’s basically the difference between our normal costs and what we spent on our hurricane efforts.”

The debris that was turned into mulch is being stored at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and will be used for several purposes.

“We’ll be able to use a lot of it on the trails at the new Sterling Creek Park and on other city-owned property,” Allison said.

There is also a possibility that some of the mulch could be made available to city residents for use on landscaping projects.

For a timeline and photos regarding Hurricane Matthew’s impact on Bryan County, please see

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