Shocking Price Disparity Revealed in Tornado Debris Removal

Local officials have some 'splaining to do when the huge disparity between communities is discovered.

Fri August 09, 2013 - West Edition
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An aerial views of the damage caused by the tornado that touched down in the area on May 20, 2013.
An aerial views of the damage caused by the tornado that touched down in the area on May 20, 2013.

MOORE, Okla. (AP) The city of Moore is paying a local contractor three times what neighboring Oklahoma City is being charged by vendors from out-of-state to remove debris left over from late May’s deadly tornadoes.

The disparity comes as a surprise to Moore-based Silver Star Construction, which is charging the suburb south of Oklahoma City $80.78 per ton to clear an estimated 112,000 tons of debris left behind by storms that killed 24 and injured hundreds.

"I was shocked about how low those prices were," Silver Star President Steve Shawn told The Oklahoman. "I just don’t understand it, honestly. ... My company doesn’t operate in a deal to rip anybody off. We just don’t."

Moore City Manager Steve Eddy said there are a few reasons why his city is paying so much more than the $25.70 to $33.95 per ton contractors from outside the state are charging to remove about 60,000 tons of debris from Oklahoma City.

The first is that Moore requires its contractor to pay the $17.54 per ton tipping fee charged by the city’s designated landfill. That’s an expense paid directly by Oklahoma City, which means its contractors don’t need to include the charge in their bill.

Another factor is that Oklahoma City sought emergency bids specifically for tornado debris collection, while Moore’s contract with Silver Star was signed seven years ago as part of a broader effort to strike a deal with a company willing to perform a variety of public works projects.

Jim Lewellyn, program manager of Oklahoma City’s public works department, said he believes Oklahoma City got a much better price because contractors knew that large quantities of the debris to be removed was concentrated in the same residential areas, lowering their potential transportation costs.

Contractors’ bids are typically much higher for picking up debris after ice storms and other types of disasters that leave debris scattered over wide areas, driving up transportation and labor costs, Lewellyn said.

Shawn agreed that was a factor, saying his company lost money in picking up debris in Moore following ice storms in recent years.




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