Pace picking up for county storm debris collections

First pass likely to be completed before mid-January

A crew from Greenville, S.C., picks up debris in a Sarasota County neighborhood near Pinecraft. Rachel Hackney photo

As an average of 60 trucks are in the field on a daily basis, an assistant Sarasota County administrator expressed hope this week that the county can beat the timeline it had set for the first “sweep” of debris from Hurricane Irma.

During an Oct. 31 briefing, Jonathan Lewis reminded the county commissioners that in early October, staff was anticipating the first pass would be concluded within 90 days. “It’s a little bit ahead of schedule,” he said on Oct. 31

The previous day, he pointed out, 70 trucks picked up 8,600 cubic yards of debris. That was “probably the biggest jump we’ve had [in amount of vegetative material] since the last report,” he added.

On Oct. 24, the City of Sarasota announced that its crews had begun their second pass for storm debris collection. A news release cautioned residents to keep that material “separate from fresh, green vegetation,” as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse local governments only for picking up storm-related debris.

In an Oct. 27 update to County Administrator Tom Harmer, Rich Collins, the county’s emergency services director, reported that the crews at work in the unincorporated parts of the county represent a mix of contractors, county staff and county-owned equipment, and rental trucks.

On Nov. 1, the county website featured these statistics. The pie chart is being updated regularly, the News Leader has found. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The county webpage devoted to storm debris issues has begun featuring a pie chart, which shows viewers the percentage of debris collected, Lewis told the board on Oct. 31. The total picked up in the unincorporated parts of the county was at the 56% mark on that pie chart during the most recent update before his briefing, Lewis said.

The chart available on Nov. 2 showed the collections at the 62% mark, with a total of 155,707 cubic yards having been picked up; 94,293 cubic yards was the estimate for the remainder.

In his Oct. 27 email, Collins noted, “The average daily collection this week is 6,866 [cubic] yards per day. Based upon this average, a total of over 45,000 [cubic] yards may be collected this week. Last week, the teams collected a total 35,693 [cubic] yards of debris.”

Regarding homeowner associations (HOAs) with private roads, Collins pointed out, “To date, staff estimates, 75% of the HOAs have been contacted.” After a seven-day notification period for residents in each of those communities, he added, contractors are assigned to the areas, and debris pickup is scheduled. Collins estimated that the last of those zones would be assigned by Nov. 17.

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Nov. 2, the county’s interactive storm debris collection map offered these updates. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Additionally, Lewis told the board on Oct. 31, staff has continued to waive tipping fees and maintain extended Saturday hours at the county landfill, which is located at 4000 Knights Trail Road in Nokomis.

Chair Paul Caragiulo sought clarification that tipping fees are being waived just for residents, saying he thought no one was being charged for bringing debris to the landfill. “That’s the way it’s been since the beginning?”

“Yes, sir,” Lewis responded.

“Really? OK,” Caragiulo replied.

When he prepared his report, Lewis said, he was told that residents had brought about 41,000 tons to the landfill.

“There’s a lot more trailers out there than I thought, maybe,” Caragiulo said.

In response to a question from Commissioner Charles Hines, Lewis pointed out that if someone cannot find an answer to a storm debris-related question on the county website (, the person should call the county Contact Center at 861-5000.

The county’s interactive storm debris collection map is being updated regularly, staff also is reminding the public. It may be found by clicking on the “Storm Debris/Trash” icon on the county’s homepage.