Sarasota County expenses linked to Hurricane Irma have climbed to the $8.2-million mark, as staff works with FEMA on reimbursements

City of Sarasota has completed its storm debris collections, while county prepares for second pass starting Nov. 27

The Sarasota County interactive storm debris collection map featured these details on Nov. 22. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As of Nov. 21, the projected total cost for Sarasota County’s response to and recovery from Hurricane Irma was approximately $8.2 million, including $600,000 for the Sheriff’s Office’s efforts, the county’s Emergency Services director reported.

County staff met on Nov. 16 with a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representative to discuss “all categories of reimbursement as well as the various projects underway to repair damages,” Rich Collins wrote in a Nov. 21 email to County Administrator Tom Harmer.

City of Sarasota staff also has continued to work with FEMA representatives “to ensure the city is reimbursed by the federal government for residential storm debris collection costs, which are estimated to be $1.5 million,” a Nov. 17 city news release pointed out.

County staff this week also was preparing for the Nov. 27 start of the second pass to pick up storm debris, while the City of Sarasota concluded its collections on Nov. 17.

County staff remains focused on its goal of completing all collections by Christmas, Collins noted in his email.

It turns out that the county’s Emergency Services staff was just a bit off the mark when it came to estimating the amount of debris county residents would collect in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s September strike.

In his Nov. 21 email, Collins wrote that “the Recovery Section has collected 113% of the estimated 250,000 [cubic] yards of debris across unincorporated Sarasota County.”

By the end of the previous workday, he continued, crews had hauled in 281,813 cubic yards. “Last week, the teams collected a total of 34,971 [cubic] yards of debris.”

City staff reported that more than 60,000 cubic yards was picked up over the past two months.

On Nov. 21, Collins pointed out, crews were completing the final zones for the county’s first pass “and collecting debris in any missed areas as they clear zones.”

Moreover, he noted, “The debris collection rates have dropped significantly as we finalize the first pass, which is expected to be complete by [close of business] today.”

This pie chart was featured Nov. 22 on the county webpage devoted to storm debris updates; its total was a bit below the figure staff had reported. Image courtesy Sarasota County

He added that staff members in the county’s Solid Waste Department are notifying residents in collection zones a minimum of five to seven days — including weekend days — prior to crews arriving for the collection effort. “This will give residents time to move dead vegetative storm debris to the right-of-way,” Collins wrote. Communications also will go out to residents who “have significant debris remaining on their property to coordinate with the Solid Waste team for collection/pick-up,” Collins noted.

As for residents on private road: Collins wrote that county staff and a contractor’s employees were continuing to work with homeowners associations and private road owners to obtain “Right-of-Entry/Hold Harmless agreements,” so collections could proceed.

Notifications of residents on private roads with no homeowner associations were complete, he added, with debris pick-up in those areas having begun on Nov. 11.

Notifications also were complete for residents of private roads with homeowners associations, he continued; all of those areas were cleared for debris pick-up to start by Nov. 17.

Sarasota County Emergency Services Director Rich Collins. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

Collins noted that the landfill would continue to operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday’s extended hours ended on Nov. 18, he added; normal Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The waiver of tipping fees for county residents to drop off

“dead vegetative debris” will remain in effect until Dec. 2, he pointed out. Tipping fees will be reinstated for all drop-offs as of Dec. 4.

Last week, Collins wrote, 5,895 tons of vegetative waste was collected at the landfill. “We continue to see approximately 1,000 tons of vegetative debris collected each day during the week,” he noted. “To date, a total of 60,212 tons of dead vegetative debris has been brought to the landfill since the storm.”

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

“Overall, the Recovery Section and Solid Waste team continue to work tirelessly to complete this project as expeditiously as possible,” Collins wrote.

On the city side

City vegetative material produced by Irma has been staged “in large mounds at a storm debris disposal site in Sarasota,” the city’s Nov. 17 news release said. “Crews are grinding the tree limbs, branches and stumps, which ultimately will be hauled to a nearby certified disposal site,” the release added.

“We’re pleased with the overall result, removing such a large volume of storm debris from the curbsides as scheduled, based on the contractor’s initial projection,” said Public Works Director Doug Jeffcoat in the release. “Over 60,000 cubic yards is close to what our Public Works crews would collect over two years when it comes to yard waste,” he continued in the release. “To do two years’ worth of work in two months is a significant undertaking. The City of Sarasota had a strong emergency contract in place prior to the hurricane making landfall,” he added of Irma. “Contractors didn’t leave the city, and additional subcontractors were added to ensure the debris was picked up in a timely fashion.”

A City of Sarasota YouTube video shows the handling of storm debris from the city’s collections. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

“[W]e appreciate residents’ patience since the storm,” City Manager Tom Barwin wrote in his Nov. 17 newsletter.

With the collection of storm debris concluded, regular yard waste rules have been reinstated, the release noted. Residents are reminded to properly prepare and adhere to City of Sarasota residential yard waste rules:

  • Place materials in containers or in bundles no longer than 4 feet.
  • Bundles must weigh 50 pounds or less.

• Do not comingle yard waste with household garbage or recycling materials.