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Boulder County faces delays with debris removal amid appeals, court battle

Two bidders have appealed the county's choice for the project. A lawsuit could delay the start date even more.

BOULDER, Colo. — Debris removal in Boulder County after the Marshall Fire is delayed because of objections filed against the company selected to clean up the mess. A lawsuit could delay this process even more.

It's a setback for families who just want to start to rebuild their homes. 

"We are ready to go," said Chad Cheek, who lost his home in Superior. "Right now, we don't know where it stands."

Cheek is ready to move forward, but the county program he opted into hasn't begun.

In early February, county commissioners selected DRC Emergency Services for the project because of the firm's ability to deploy dozens of crews throughout the region and complete the project by July 1. Work was expected to begin by March 1, following a 10-day period for other bidders to appeal the decision. 

Families are still waiting for the work to begin.

"Those of us that have to rebuild, yeah, it messes up with timeline," Cheek said. "Those people that are there living it have to look at it every day, and it needs to go."

On Monday, the county attorney's office said two bidders have appealed the award and the county must resolve those appeals before signing any contract. 

Negotiations are ongoing. County Attorney David Hughes hopes the appeals will be resolved next week, and the county remains hopeful the project will be completed roughly in the same timeframe.

"In addition, we have a complex contract to finalize with DRC and an intergovernmental agreement with Louisville and Superior that must be in place as well before work can begin," the county attorney's office said in a statement.

This contract is estimated to cost more than $52 million, and it's now the focus of a lawsuit filed in February by Demanding Integrity In Government Spending (DIGS). The newly-formed nonprofit is claiming Boulder County broke open meetings laws and wasn't transparent when it picked a contractor to remove debris as part of its Private Property Debris Removal program. 

DIGS was created by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown. Brown resigned from that role after criticism of how FEMA handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

RELATED: Next phase of Marshall Fire cleanup on hold due to lawsuit

According to the county, this lawsuit could delay the debris removal process if a judge issues an order to stop the county from moving ahead with DRC. 

The City Manager of Louisville, Jeff Durbin, is concerned about the delay, but he isn't frustrated at the county. He's upset about the lawsuit.

"If there are flaws in the process, that is a big problem," he said. "I don’t think there are. I am confident they will prevail."

There's now a petition against this lawsuit. As of Monday, more than 450 people had signed it, including Cheek. He wants to see progress after weeks of waiting. 

There's a hearing on the lawsuit on March 18. A group of residents is planning a rally on March 12 at 2:30 p.m. at the Louisville Arboretum to protest the lawsuit.

RELATED: After Marshall Fire, family fights to live in RV on burned lot

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