LOUISVILLE, Colo. — Survivors of the Marshall Fire rallied together on Saturday to oppose a lawsuit about debris clean-up in Boulder County.
The lawsuit was filed in February by a newly formed non-profit called Demanding Integrity In Government Spending (DIGS). The lawsuit alleges Boulder County did not follow due process while selecting a contractor to carry out debris removal, estimated to be a more than $50 million contract.
DIGS was created in part by former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown, who was forced to step down from his role after a matter of weeks due to his handling to the disaster response during Hurricane Katrina.
Residents who oppose the lawsuit say that Brown has no place in filing the lawsuit, calling him an "outsider" with no connection to the fire.
For those who opted in to use the Debris Removal Program to clean up their properties, the pending lawsuit could further delay the process. The county has already said that their March 1 date to begin the program was out of reach, despite the lawsuit's filing in February.
Earlier this week, the county attorney's office said two bidders who were not awarded the contract appealed the decision. Appealing, also known as "protesting," is standard practice in the process of awarding a contract such as this one. That delay is short-term, in comparison to the potentially long-term injunction the lawsuit could place on the process as the filing seeks for the selection to be "redone."
"This is not what we want. We want equipment digging on our properties and hauling away toxic ash now," said rally organizer Tawnya Samauroo, who lost her home to the fire.
Many insurance companies will help pay for temporary housing as they rebuild, but much of those reimbursements for rental units will run out after 12 months or 24 months. Survivors are worried the lawsuit will only take valuable time they don't have to spare.
"This is our opportunity to say we want this place cleaned. We want this to proceed," said Reina Pomeroy, who is also a member of the survivor group Marshall Together. "It’s devastating. We ought to be able to clean up and get on with our lives."
Local leaders feel that the claims in the lawsuit are unfounded.
"As an elected body, you want to help and bring some control and an amount of certainty and we are not able to do that here. It is frustrating for all of us," said Neal Shah, board trustee with the Town of Superior.
A judge plans to hear evidence in the case on Friday, March 18. The judge could hear the evidence and throw the case out or let it proceed.
Marshall Together plans to file a motion to intervene in court this week as well. If successful, it would allow the original contractor selected to continue while the lawsuit plays out in court.
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