Last Pass for Hurricane Michael Debris to Start March 11

Residents in the two Florida cities and incorporated areas of Bay County are encouraged to have all debris on their curbs by March 10 to help with the pickup. The final wave of cleanup will last through mid-April, after which any debris will be removed at homeowners' expense.

by Patrick Mccreless, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. / February 13, 2019
In this Oct. 23, 2018 photo, Mark Ward surveys the destruction of his neighbor's mobile home in Bay County, Fla. Ward and his neighbors say that the rural parts of the county have seen little help since Hurricane Michael. AP/Tamara Lush

(TNS) - Bay County and the cities of Springfield and Callaway will begin their final passes of free Hurricane Michael debris removal on March 11.

Residents in the two cities and incorporated areas of the county are encouraged to have all debris on their curbs by March 10 to help with the pickup. The final wave of cleanup will last through mid-April, after which any debris will be removed at homeowners' expense, officials said.

"We've got to get this place cleaned up," said Philip Griffitts, chairman of the Bay County Commission. "We continue to see illegal dumping ... we've got to set a date now or we'll never get this done."

While Springfield and Callaway decided to partner with the county on their final debris passes, other cities in the area still have their own schedules. Property owners in other cities can contact their local governments for information on when debris collection will end there.

For the March pickup, residents should sort their debris. For instance, vegetative debris should be separated from piles of housing debris. Electronics and large appliances also should be in separate piles. Debris should be placed at most 10 feet away from the curb.

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.

Debris removal has been a long and costly job in the county and expected to be much more expensive when the work is finished.

To date, the county has removed about 7 million cubic yards of debris from the unincorporated areas. Springfield and Callaway each have removed about 900,000 cubic yards of debris.

Griffitts said debris removal could end up costing the county about $200 million. Callaway estimates a $25 million total debris removal bill, while Springfield expects a $15 million total cleanup cost.

County and city officials said they expect reimbursement for much of the debris removal from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but still don't know when any money will arrive.

"I don't think anyone knows when they'll get reimbursed," Griffitts said. "It could take a year or two."

Springfield Mayor Ralph Hammond said he thought aligning the city's debris removal end date with the county's would be helpful.

"We're aligning with Bay County to get some folks motivated," Hammond said. "The faster we can get things cleaned up, the faster we can get those big trucks out of here that are tearing up the roads ... and the faster we can get back to road paving."

Hammond said getting rid of the debris faster also would improve the community.

"As long as there's a lot of debris out, the neighborhoods look bad and people aren't going to come back to that," Hammond said. "There's also fire issues and safety concerns with homeless moving into derelict homes."

Callaway Mayor Pamn Henderson said debris removal has been a major issue for area cities and the sooner it's gone, the better it will be for residents' mental health.

"Right now people can't see around the debris piles to see what the future looks like," Henderson said.

———

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

Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.