CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Chatham County Commissioners say that even though they're taking a risk by approving $3.5 million from reserve funds to pick up debris on private roads, it's the right thing to do.
Commissioners say if they picked up debris on their own with private contractors, they will not be reimbursed.
The approved budget amendment will expand their current contract to include 17 of the 21 gated communities as well as private roads. They tell me you won't see trucks there overnight, but they met Friday and will again on Monday to start the scheduling process.
So over the next few weeks, they will start to pick up Hurricane Mathew debris in these areas just like they have been doing for other homeowners on public roads who pay the same solid waste fee of $43 a year.
"There is a risk that we won't be reimbursed but I for one and I believe with the vote we took most commissioners feel like it's an obligation of the county commission to pick up this debris that we have done for generations and decades," said District 4 Commissioner Patrick Farrell.
They will put in an appeal with FEMA with the hopes of getting reimbursed for the $3.5 million they're putting up to pick up the debris.
This decision didn't come without some opposition. The one commissioner who voted against the plan says the rich are getting all the help while the poor are being forgotten.
Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz says Westlake Apartment tenants have been suffering since Hurricane Matthew and have gotten no attention from the county. Several Westlake residents were there as well just waiting for their elected officials to at least acknowledge their problem is on the radar. That acknowledgment never came.
"How could all vote for $3.5 million to pick up some debris to get moved off the streets and y'all can't put 100 tenants somewhere to live. How could y'all do that? How can you be comfortable at night knowing that y'all done did that," said Westlake resident Shamekia Wright.
Fighting back tears, Wright and Theresa Goldwhite - who live in the Westlake Apartments - were shocked that the commission didn't mention the issues they're facing.
"It may be two separate issues but it's a double standard there," said Commissioner Shabazz. "I couldn't vote for that because some of that money could be used to make them whole."
"You can actually smell it. It slaps you in the face. How can you just tear out the wall and think everything will be OK," said Westlake resident Tiarra Williams.
Williams showed me the mold on her walls and says her next door neighbor's home has already been renovated and painted.
"That's mold. Y'all haven't treated that. They said there were humidifiers and dryers I have not seen one," said Williams.
"They're stealing power from her unit into a unit that's not supposed to have power," Wright said.
She doesn't even think the people working on the apartments are certified.
"All of us are still uncomfortable because we're not in our own space," Williams said.
"I believe that that the county has a responsibility to make sure these residents are made whole," added Commissioner Shabazz.
"To the people and not the trash, we're not trash," Goldwhite stated.
Commissioner Shabazz emphasized that this wasn't about politics for him because he lost re-election. But he says it's still his district and the county has a responsibility to help these people.