Hurricane Irma cleanup not fast enough, some Hillsborough commissioners say
TAMPA -- Some Hillsborough County commissioners on Wednesday criticized the speed of debris pick up after Hurricane Irma and said residents aren’t being told how long it will take.
Commissioner Ken Hagan said he has heard the date for removal pushed back several times and noted the county took down a website map that told residents when their debris might be picked up.
“I see piles and piles of debris everywhere,” Hagan said.
Ditto, Commissioner Stacy White said. And Commissioner Victor Crist said residents are confused by what can be left at the curb.
County staff said they can get a map up by the end of the week identifying which areas have already been cleaned and what neighborhoods are prioritized. The City of Tampa produced a similar map this week.
Clean up efforts began Sept. 18, soon after Hurricane Irma passed through the Tampa Bay area. The problem, County Administrator Mike Merrill said, is the amount of debris left behind is “the size of Raymond James Stadium and the height of this building,” meaning the County Center, a 28-story tower. And it is spread throughout a county that is the size of Rhode Island.
Commissioners asked if Merrill needed more money to get the job done sooner, but Merrill said no.
His hesitance to promise a clean up date to residents is out of caution, not because they are behind or having problems.
“I don’t want to set expectations that we can’t meet,” Merrill said, adding: “It’s been two weeks.”
Merrill said the two companies on retainer to conduct clean up have stuck with the county, unlike in some other communities that have lost their contractors to higher-paying localities in harder-hit south Florida. There are 56 private crews in operation plus 10 county crews, said public works director John Lyons.
But Hagan said the subcontractors haven’t stuck around and have taken their trucks and hauling machinery down south.
Commissioner Les Miller asked county staff to get the message out to residents on what to expect, but said people should know this will take time due to the magnitude of the storm.
“This didn’t just happen overnight,” Commissioner Les Miller said. “Be patient. It will get cleaned up.”