Image: CrowderGulf Vice President Lyman Ramsay addressed the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on September 12, 2017, concerning the sharp practices among dump truck drivers and operators who are profiteering from the Tropical Storm Harvey disaster.
Conroe, September 12 – “I’ve never seen the level of greed, deceit, and lies told than what I’ve seen in this state,” Crowder Gulf Vice President Lyman Ramsey told the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, regarding the failure of the $2 million plus contractor to provide debris removal services necessary as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey.
The Commissioners Court awarded the $2 million contract – without any competitive bidding or review of other potential vendors – during a hastily called meeting on Friday, September 1, during which the Court also awarded all salaried and exempt employees of the County government overtime pay for their work arising from the storm. (Of course, volunteers who are private citizens working long hours to help others will receive no such compensation nor should they.)
CrowderGulf, based in Theodore, Alabama, with satellite offices in Texas, assures potential customers, “The full-time CrowderGulf disaster support team is dedicated to provide rapid, coordinated and efficient response to any disaster situation that requires outside support – and we have the personnel, equipment resources, strong financial backing and experience necessary to do just that.” So far, CrowderGulf has failed to live up to its commitment to Montgomery County.
Ramsay admitted, “I’m very disappointed with the progress…Things have moved a little slow in getting some debris removal trucks in place…I cannot apologize enough. It [the company] has my family’s name on it. We want to be very effective with removal.”
Both Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack echoed Ramsay’s concerns. “I’m ready for the trucks…We need some relief,” Clark told Ramsay and his colleagues on the Commissioners Court, including County Judge Craig Doyal who seemed to want to move swiftly away from any public discussion of the terrible problems in the County government’s attempt to provide disaster relief to the community after Tropical Storm Harvey and the San Jacinto River Authority together caused such vast damage, particularly in East Montgomery County.
To date, most of the debris removal in Montgomery County has come from volunteers, Precinct 4 road and bridge employees, and Precinct 3 employees. While Clark and Noack have efficiently set up debris sites where residents may bring debris, there has been a substantial shortage of debris removal trucks, so that CrowderGulf has failed to fulfill its duties under its hastily-arranged contract with the County. The ideal removal would be CrowderGulf trucks would haul the debris to debris sites, which Clark and Noack have established. At the debris sites, CrowderGulf would compact the debris and the haul it to regional landfills.
Noack asked Ramsay, “When will you see more trucks and activity? Noack continued, “I have only one truck from your company in all of Precinct 3. The patience of this community is being tested. I have people in Precinct 3 who are volunteers and County employees who are doing your job.”
Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley complained, “I need a site picked up in Woodforest right now.” Ramsay and County Emergency Manager Darren Hess assured Riley that would happen.
Noack was the only member of the Commissioners Court willing to explain openly part of the cause for the failure in debris removal operations. “A bidding war opened up because of our friends down south paying almost twice as much as our contract was…That’s part of the greed and deceit.”
Ramsay responded, “Every day I’d be told I have 6 trucks coming” but, instead, they would go for work in communities south of Montgomery County.
Noack explained to The Golden Hammer that Harris County and the City of Houston entered into trucking arrangements where CrowderGulf and Montgomery County were substantially outbid for trucks.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will hopefully reimburse Montgomery County for the cost of the debris removal.
The Commissioners Court unanimously approved an increase in the amount of $0.60 to $1.20 per cubic foot of debris for truck removal services both for CrowerGulf and one smaller debris removal vendor, Sprint Waste Services of Sugar Land.