Red Tape Ties Up Work Crew

Cynthia Bowers, contractors willing to help with clean up
CBS/The Early Show
The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina had many Americans wanting to help.

For a group of six contractors from South Carolina, that meant driving to the devastated area to help in the clean-up. But, when the got there, CBS News correspondent, Cynthia Bowers reports, they were hard bent to find someone who would let them work.

When you look at the piles of debris Katrina left behind - literally there are miles of it - this story almost seems to defy logic.

Laughing, contractor Tomas Nyblom says, "We have to go south and fill out more paperwork. There's a new form today."

It would be funny if it weren't so sad. For two full days now, these can-do guys have been filling out forms, working the phones, and spinning their wheels, trying to find somebody who'll let them get down to work.

Nyblom, who is also the pastor of the Church of the Vine, says, "When we got back last night, we were more tired from trying to get the work than we would have been, had we actually been working."

By the time Bowers ran into them early Wednesday, they told her it seemed as if their relief effort was beginning to look like a disaster.

"It is deflating," says Nyblom. "We were really excited to help out and now we have to go back to South Carolina and report that we didn't do much."

Volunteer Randy Hanson adds, "We have 10 more skid steers; we have five or six backhoes; we have a dozen six-wheel dump trucks; and about 30 guys sitting by the phone, waiting to come down."

And all that work at no charge. Hanson notes, "For every piece of machinery you see on the ground working, there are 20 pieces of equipment driving around looking for work. Why don't they let us clean it up?"

And finally around lunchtime, they did.

Their first assignment was a fitting one for these family men, clearing a playground for the children of Ocean Springs.

Volunteer Mitch McDonald was happy. He says, "It is nice to finally be able to do what we came down here to do."

Despite the obvious frustration, federal, state, and local officials say they need volunteers. They want volunteers. This recovery process will take many months and all kinds of hands are needed, they say.