Cost, breadth of impact among factors in Overland Park’s decision not to offer curbside storm debris pick up

Arborists are hard at work this week as efforts to clean up from the damage done during Winter Storm Gia continue.

When Winter Storm Gia hit Celeste Aronoff’s neighborhood in northern Overland Park, it snapped two massive branches from one of the trees in her family’s yard.

As clean up efforts from the storm got underway, Aronoff and her neighbors were struggling to decide how to proceed.

“There are large limbs and trees down everywhere,” she said. “The idea that most of us are equipped to manage this on our own seems kind of ludicrous…We just keep joking about getting everything in my Prius.”

Aronoff isn’t the only Overland Park resident irked by the city’s decision to set up drop off sites for storm debris instead of arranging for a curbside collection, and many other cities in the Shawnee Mission area have done. Overland Park’s neighboring cities of Leawood, Prairie Village, Mission and Roeland Park, for example, are all offering special curbside pick ups.

But, say Overland Park officials, the cost of arranging such an effort in a city the size of Overland Park would be considerable — and not every part of the city was hit as hard as the northern neighborhoods.

Overland Park Communications Manager Sean Reilly noted that the impact of the storm was highly varied across the city.

“This storm, there were pockets that were impacted a lot, but then you go across a major thoroughfare and there wasn’t any effect at all,” he said.

Setting up a city-wide storm debris clean up in Overland Park would not be unprecedented — but has been rare. The last time the city arranged a city-wide storm debris clean up effort was after a huge storm in January 2002. Reilly said the total cost of that pick up was around $4 million, but the city was reimbursed for some of the cost on account of a federal disaster declaration. Prior to that, the city had conducted a city-wide clean up following the “October Surprise” storm in 1996.

Reilly said the city hadn’t formally priced out a city-wide clean up effort for Winter Storm Gia, but a ballpark price would be about $1 million. Authorizing such an expenditure would require city council approval.

“And we don’t budget in for clean up for storms like this because they don’t happen every year,” he said.

At present, Reilly estimated that the total cost to the city for setting up the drop-off sites and transporting the debris away would be around $100,000.

He noted that many neighborhoods are collaborating on hiring tree crews to haul away large limbs and that most waste haulers will pick up smaller limbs that have been bundled during regular trash pick up.