Wichita estimates storm cleanup could take 3 weeks to finish

City officials said Tuesday crews are still about three weeks away from finishing cleanup from last week’s storm, which left tree debris scattered across much of west and central Wichita.

As many as 18 crews are making their way through neighborhoods, picking up debris fallen on public rights-of-way, considered the area between a sidewalk and the street, according to Joe Pajor, deputy director of public works and utilities for the city. At least five people are on each crew.

“We need to clarify that what we’re picking up is tree debris from the publicly-owned street trees,” Pajor said. “Any tree that is adjacent to the street in the public right of way that suffered storm damage, that’s the waste we’re collecting.”

Pajor said residents should keep waste from public areas separate from their own private waste, and make arrangements with the city to have public waste removed separately.

“We are relying on the cooperation of citizens to make sure that any waste they are managing on their private property is coordinated with a private contractor,” Pajor said. “That’s our expectation — that they will take responsibility for their tree waste and we’ll take responsibility for the public tree waste.”

Residents in neighborhoods by the Maple and Tyler area, where crews were working on Monday, expressed confusion at what the city was and was not picking up. Pajor said he understands the confusion, because the waste is in an area “immediately in front of their homes and business that they’re responsible for maintaining.”

“It’s their responsibility for cutting the grass and shoveling the snow, but there is a public right-of-way,” Pajor said.

Officials did not have a cost estimate as of Tuesday morning.

The city also launched a map of areas crews have already cleaned at

Pajor said this map will be updated every weekday.

“It will allow people a chance to see what areas we have managed to either clean or certify there is nothing to clean up,” Pajor said.

After crews are finished clearing rights-of-way, work will start in city parks and golf courses, said Doug Kupper, Wichita’s director of park and recreation.

“We have a lot of trees down, we have a lot of tree limbs down — whether it’s on a golf course, a recreation facility or just in the middle of Riverside Park,” Kupper said. “We are not going to get after those tree debris and limbs until we have taken care of our citizens’ needs by getting the street (rights-of-way) cleared up.”

Kupper said the department uses private contractors to cut grass in parks. Part of their contract includes cleaning up litter and debris, so some of the mess may be gone before city crews turn their attention toward it, Kupper said.

City officials anticipate public tree waste will be incinerated, at an additional cost to the city, Pajor said.

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