'Final Pass' for Hurricane Michael Debris Pickup in Florida Counties Begins

The final wave of cleanup will last for about five weeks, after which any debris will be removed at homeowners' expense. The final pass comes soon after the Florida Department of Transportation recently announced it would end its debris pickup along state highways on April 15.

by Patrick Mccreless, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. / March 11, 2019
Lorraine DePriest, 55, who suffers from many medical issues, sits on a makeshift bench outside of her home in a public housing complex in Panama City, Fla., on October 19, 2018. Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle leaving tens of thousands without food, power or shelter. TNS

(TNS) - The final pass for Hurricane Michael debris pickup begins in unincorporated Bay County and the cities of Springfield, Callaway, Parker and Mexico Beach on Monday.

The final wave of cleanup will last for about five weeks, after which any debris will be removed at homeowners' expense. The final pass comes soon after the Florida Department of Transportation recently announced it would end its debris pickup along state highways on April 15.

Residents in the unincorporated areas of Bay County and in the cities of Springfield, Callaway, Mexico Beach and Parker are encouraged to have all debris on their curbs by the end of Sunday so the final pass starting on Monday can move more smoothly.

"We understand that people are and have been working hard to remove debris over the last five months, and we appreciate their efforts," said Don Murray, county general services director. "Problems related to illegal dumping on the right of way on roads that have already been completed will be addressed on a case-by-case basis."

Residents are asked to sort their debris. For instance, vegetative debris should be separated from piles of housing debris. Electronics and large appliances should also be in separate piles.

Also, the debris pickup only applies to damage from the hurricane. Any debris created through home repair must be hauled off by the contractors doing the work.

Bay County has collected more than 7.5 million cubic yards of debris in the unincorporated areas alone, and an estimated total of 15 million cubic yards of debris has been collected countywide. ?

Ian Satter, FDOT spokesman, said the department recently picked April 15 as its final debris pickup day.

"We're removing debris from the state road highway system like Highway 77 ... we didn't have a specific end date prior to this," Satter said of the April deadline.

The department of transportation has so far collected 4 million cubic yards of debris along the state highway system. It has also collected another 12.5 million cubic yards of debris in some counties that are fiscally constrained.

Bay County hired a contractor to handle debris removal in the unincorporated areas.

"The state highway system is our charge, but the impact of the storm was so severe ... we felt as an agency that we had to help," Satter said of helping some counties.

Satter said the department did not yet have a cost estimate for the cleanup work.

"The cost estimate is very fluid right now," he said.

Still, the department expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse it for the debris removal eventually, Satter said.

Unlike the county, Panama City has not yet set an end date for its debris cleanup work.

On Feb. 25, the city launched a private property debris removal program in coordination with FEMA. The city will accept applications to the program through May 4.

By participating in the program, residents will grant the city's debris removal contractors entrance to their residential property to inspect and remove hurricane debris. To qualify, an applicant must be the legal owner of a residential property in the city and submit the application by the deadline.

As for Lynn Haven, contracted haulers have finished their sweeps and city workers are handling the rest of the debris pickup, Mayor Margo Anderson said.

For more information on the Panama City program or how to apply, visit https://www.pcgov.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=271.

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©2019 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

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