First storm debris passes in county should be completed by Thanksgiving, emergency services director says

City of Sarasota staff anticipating all city collections will be finished within 60 days

A map shows the states from which help is coming to Sarasota County for storm debris collection efforts. Image from Sarasota County Government via Twitter

As of Oct. 19, Sarasota County’s storm debris contractors were working in 15 of the 38 residential zones, the county’s website reported.

Altogether, approximately 60,000 cubic yards of vegetative storm debris had been collected as of that date, the website noted. Contractors are working seven days a week to clear the debris, the website said.

“Continuing at this pace should allow completion of the first pass by Thanksgiving,” Rich Collins, the county’s emergency services director, wrote County Administrator Tom Harmer in an Oct. 17 email.

Additionally this week, the Sarasota City Commission authorized payments to two firms in conjunction with the city’s storm debris work. Staff estimated that all of the city collections would be completed within 60 days, according to a memo prepared in advance of the board’s Oct. 16 meeting.

The efforts of CrowderGulf, the county’s primary contractor for the collections, “continue to improve” as more equipment arrives from Texas, Collins informed Harmer in the Oct. 17 email. Forty trucks operating in the county picked up 5,380 cubic yards of debris on Oct. 16, Collins noted.

“Last week 25,982 cubic yards of debris was collected,” he pointed out, “which was a 220% increase over the average of the previous two weeks. For Sunday and Monday of this week, the team has collected 9,440 cubic yards of debris,” he added. Based upon collection rates, he told Harmer, the total expected for this week should be more than 33,000 cubic yards.

Storm debris collection gets an early start. Photo from Sarasota County Government via Twitter on Oct. 19

Moreover, Collins pointed out, “The [county’s Emergency Services] team was notified today that we have been approved by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] for debris collection on private roadways.”

He added, “This allows our request for reimbursement for the work we are undertaking on private roads.” County staff and workers employed by a county contractor, he noted, were contacting homeowner associations to complete right of entry/hold harmless (ROE/HH) agreements to enable those collections to proceed. “Signage and door hangers outlining the process for collecting storm debris on private roadways are being disseminated,” Collins wrote. “These attempted notification processes will allow us to collect on private roads pursuant to FEMA rules. The goal is to rapidly attempt to collect ROE/HH agreements and then collect debris on all properties on private roads.”

City action

In voting unanimously to approve its Consent Agenda No. 1 of routine business items, the City Commission approved emergency purchase orders to pay Ceres Environmental Services — the city’s primary contractor — up to $756,900, while it will pay Tetra Tech up to $530,849.

The agreement with Ceres covers removal and disposition of the estimated 60,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris in the city that resulted from Hurricane Irma. “This includes the services to cut and remove leaning trees and hanging branches located in the City’s right-of-way,” the staff memo noted.

A document provided to the Sarasota City Commission shows the breakdown of payments to Ceres Environmental. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Ceres will receive $7.50 per cubic yard for the vegetative debris it picks up, according to documentation attached to the memo, and it will be paid from $20 to $48 per tree, with the diameter of limbs (from 6 inches to more than 49 inches) serving as one factor in the expense.

A second staff memo explains that the city contracted with Tetra Tech as a result of responses it received to a Request for Proposals it issued in “recognition that the City of Sarasota was going to be impacted by Hurricane Irma.”

The money for the emergency purchase orders is coming out of the city’s General Fund, the memos noted. “This expense is eligible for reimbursement at 75% from the Federal Government and 12.5% from the State,” the memos added, noting, “It is estimated that we will conclude all necessary documentation and submittals to FEMA within 120 days.”

County map updates continue as staff offers tips

County leaders continue to encourage members of the public to use the interactive map created by staff to learn the estimated starting date for collections in their specific neighborhoods. The software for the map allows anyone to enter an address to find out the collection date.

The storm debris webpage included the following recommendations, as well:

  • “Remember to keep your vegetative storm debris completely separated from regular yard waste and garbage. Only vegetative storm debris is being collected by the debris contractors.
  • “It’s important to keep your vegetative storm debris pile separated from your regular garbage, recycling and yard waste, and away from mailboxes, fire hydrants, water meters, utility lines or other objects that could be damaged during pickup.” If other items — such as fences and garbage bags — are mixed in with the vegetative storm debris pile, or if they are too close in proximity, “the debris contractor may not be able to pick up the vegetative storm debris,” the website explains.
  • Residents who live on private roads need to complete a Right of Entry Onto Private Property for Debris Removal Disaster Assistance form from homeowners or homeowner associations.

The website notice added that the county’s landfill will be open Saturday, Oct. 21, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for all services and from 2 to 5 p.m. for residential storm-related vegetative debris. “Residential tipping fees for storm-related vegetative debris will be waived until further notice,” the website pointed out.

The landfill is located at 4000 Knights Trail Road in Nokomis.

Additionally, the website cautions, “Burning storm debris is prohibited unless residents obtain a permit from the Florida Forest Service.”