By Emily Turner

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A clean-up company on Wednesday was scaling back operations in the North Bay fire zone amid allegations the business may have less of a financial incentive to keep more crews on the job.

In the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, workers who thought they would have a job for months are finding they aren’t needed.

Many of those laborers are headed back home or simply parked in their trucks doing nothing.

But either way, hundreds of crews and the machinery they use to clear debris won’t be working.

“We basically were told that our contracts were done, “” said operating engineer Rob Brozek. “We were given two checks and told to go home. ‘We’ll call you if there’s more.'”

Brozek came from Reno for this job expecting to work until February.

But Wednesday morning, he and local trade groups said at least 300 laborers were told to finish up and head home.

They worked for prime contractor ECC, a company out of Burlingame that signed a deal for debris removal with the Army Corps of Engineers.

That deal is good for another month, but the Corp says the phase out has already begun:

When asked why the Corps would end the contracts almost a month early, Corps spokesperson Patrick Bloodgood said, “That emergency contract was written for a certain dollar amount as it was put out, and we are coming up on the end of those dollar amounts. So we are doing the transition to have a clean transition from one contract to the next contract.”

The contract was for $200 million in debris removal.

With that, crews cleared lots of debris, helping move the recovery process along.

But this close to the end of their budgeted contract amount, with a month of work still to go and at least a week until a new contract is awarded, the Army Corps of Engineers tells KPIX 5 ECC has scaled back their crews significantly, affecting not just laborers but homeowners as well.

“It’s disappointing, not just in the slowdown of work so that houses don’t get built quicker, but the fact that it wasn’t communicated down so we could expect it,” said Jeff Okrepkie, who lost his home in Coffey Park.

When an ECC spokesperson finally spoke to KPIX 5 early Wednesday evening, he said that residents should know that the work ramp up once the new contract is awarded should more than make up for any lag caused by the current halt of debris-removal work by the company.

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