BEMIDJI - The city's curbside pickup of storm debris should soon be complete.
"We fully anticipate having everything picked up, hauled away and done by the end of this week," said Craig Gray, city engineer/public works director, during a Monday meeting of the Public Works Commission.
The citywide pickup program, initiated by the city following the July 2 storm, has been under way for more than a week. Four large grapple trucks, along with an operator for each, were rented from Sawyer Enterprises Truck of Backus, Minn., at a cost of $125 an hour.
Gray noted that competing bids were $140 to $150 an hour for a truck that city crews would have had to load themselves.
"We came out really well there," he said.
In fact, Gray expects the cost of storm cleanup to be in the range of $80,000, significantly less than early estimates of $100,000.
With curbside pickup nearing completion, the Sawyer fleet is expected to leave Bemidji by the end of the day Wednesday, Gray said.
Once the curbside pickup is complete, streets crews will turn their focus to the Rako Street site, where the branches and logs have been gathered. The tree debris will be ground into woodchips.
"We're probably going to spend a week in there chipping and grinding," Gray said.
Gray is working toward finding a no-cost option for disposing of the woodchips. He is awaiting a response from a company that has indicated an interest in them.
"If we can get this company to haul it away for free ... we should do that as soon as (we) can," Gray said.
If that is not a possibility, though, he noted that he has been contacted by Eric Pouliot, a member of the city's Sustainability Committee.
"He was interested in what the city was going to do with the woodchips. He has some ideas," Gray said.
He told the committee that if woodchip disposal could not be done for free, he would approach the council with additional options.
"The only downside is that it's probably a two- to four-month process for (Pouliot) to utilize those woodchips," Gray said.
John Chattin, city manager, said that once chipping is complete, the city expected to have 2,000 truckloads of woodchips.
That would be about 25,000 yards, Gray added.
The city has some concerns with letting the woodchip pile just remain in its location. For one, woodchip piles can spontaneously combust into flame.
Also, he does not want city residents to come to thinking of the Rako Street site as a dump zone.
"The longer we have that stuff sitting out there at Rako, the longer it becomes a dump site," he said.