Staff continuing to try to secure more trucks for the effort
As Sarasota County staff continues to work on initiatives to improve the rate of storm debris collection, the county announced this week that it has developed a new interactive tool to show residents the pick-up schedule.
“Visit bit.ly/StormDebrisPickupMap [https://www.scgov.net/government/irma-storm-debris] and enter your address into the map to see when you can tentatively expect the storm debris removal truck,” a post says on the Sarasota County Government Facebook page.
In an Oct. 3 update to County Administrator Tom Harmer, Richard Collins, director of emergency services for the county, pointed out that the map shows the following:
- Current areas where crews are working.
- Schedules and zones planned for areas of the county.
- All public roads in the unincorporated parts of the county.
- All private roads in the unincorporated areas of the county.
- Roads that have been cleared of debris.
When The Sarasota News Leader clicked on the webpage with the map, it found the following advisory: “Collection start dates for various zones are subject to change based upon amount of debris in each zone. Please check back regularly for updates on status of collection in your area.”
The public also is welcome to ask for more information by calling the county’s storm debris removal hotline: 855-866-5654, the county advises on its website and on Facebook.
Furthermore, county staff has announced that the landfill, located at 4000 Knights Trail in Nokomis, will be open on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for residents who wish to dispose of vegetative debris themselves. Tipping fees are being waived for that material through Oct. 7, the Facebook page says.
The county also has extended its state of emergency for another seven days, County Administrator Harmer reported by email to the County Commission on Oct. 3. A notice on the county’s website explains that the state of emergency “enables us to pursue recovery programs for our citizens.”
In an email update to Harmer on the night of Oct. 4, Collins wrote that 16 trucks are continuing to work primarily in South Venice and Englewood.
On Oct. 3, he noted that 19 trucks were in those areas.
On Oct. 4, Collins continued, “crews collected 1,329 cubic yards of debris,” which was slightly more than they picked up the previous day. He added that delivery of 10 rental trucks with grappling claws “is in process.”
Also on Oct. 4, Collins noted that 21,030 tons of vegetative waste had been collected since the storm.
However, Collins advised Harmer, “As of today we have not received notification on our request to collect debris on private roads through FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. “
During the Sept. 26 County Commission meeting, Assistant County Administrator Jonathan Lewis explained that the county needs FEMA approval to begin that work on private roads or the county will not be able to expect reimbursement from the federal government for its efforts.
In his Oct. 3 report to Harmer, Collins wrote, “Today meetings were held with [Tetra Tech], [the county’s] Communications [Department staff], Office of the County Attorney, and [the county’s] Solid Waste [Department] to ensure the planned efforts [proceed] for attempting to notify private road owners to complete [necessary “hold harmless”] agreements [for debris collection]. This process will help us ensure the greatest reimbursement as well as collect debris in these areas as rapidly as possible.”
He added, “Staff is also actively pursuing more resources through both contractors and/or emergency procurement to increase the [number] of trucks collecting debris. Today the [Florida] Attorney General also announced several investigations regarding contractors not fulfilling their contractual obligations, which includes one of our contractors.”
Because companies have been able to get higher pay per cubic yard for storm debris collections in south Florida, Collins explained a couple of weeks ago, Sarasota and a few other counties paying lower fees have struggled with their contractors to find enough firms to handle the work.
In his Oct. 4 email, Collins pointed out that as of that date, the county had expended $5.2 million “for the response and recovery to Hurricane Irma …”
Collins continued, “We did receive requests from FAC [the Florida Association of Counties] for information on our debris collection status as well as private road debris status. The OCA [Office of the County Attorney] also received requests for information. We both have responded back and provided information on the program status as well as challenges with truck and resource allocations. We look forward to working with FAC on any actions to facilitate our county’s ability to expedite FEMA approvals for private roads.”
Additionally, of Oct. 4, Collins wrote that 24,990 people have applied for Individual Assistance through FEMA, “and 15,746 of those citizens have been referred to FEMA’s Individual Housing Assistance program. Disaster Assistance Teams continue to canvas the County.”
City of Sarasota initiatives
Additionally, on its website, the City of Sarasota has provided a list of answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” about storm debris.
Among the answers, city staff explains that they expect crews will make two to three passes through all neighborhoods, “with each cycle taking several weeks.”
City staff also says that plans call for the use of street sweepers to remove “smaller, fine debris,” noting, “We ask for patience as this may take some time.”
In regard to a question about how a resident should deal with a toppled tree partially in the right of way, the answer says, “The storm debris contractor will cut and remove only the portion that is on or over the right-of-way. City contractors and employees do not enter private property to remove downed trees.”
No set schedule has been compiled for city storm debris collections, city staff is reminding the public. Crews are working north to south, the website points out.