The Collier County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to take more than $95 million from the 2023 county budget and put it toward Hurricane Ian clean up and recovery, almost two weeks after the storm hit Southwest Florida.
Unincorporated Collier County is estimated to have almost $1 billion in damages from Hurricane Ian. The city of Naples almost has $900 million in damages, Marco Island has more than $250 million and Everglades City has $7 million. In total, it has been calculated that Collier County has more than $2 billion in both residential and commercial damages.
The $95 million from the county budget will help with wastewater management, park and beach restoration, governmental facilities repairs and other recovery efforts. The Collier County Sheriff’s Office will also receive some funding to support overtime for first responders.
“I think I want to stress to you that resources are thin, as they are during any of these events under the best of considerations,” said Dan Summers, director of emergency services. “Our goal is to address the whole community and do our best to meet those emergent needs and get started on those long-term needs.”
A big chunk of the funding will be coming out of the county’s Fund 301, a reserve the board set up three years ago to aid and provide continuity on capital facility maintenance. Solid waste funds will also be taken out for hurricane relief, causing a change in financing for some planned utility projects.
“I just wanted to say out loud that there are no capital projects that are being delayed when we’re pulling money out of these reserves,” Interim Deputy County Manager Edward Finn said. “This is money that’s being stored up for future capital projects and we’re not delaying any of these capital projects by pulling out of these reserves.”
On a state level, Federal Emergency Management Agency aid has started to flow through the county. As of Monday, more than 17,000 Collier County residents registered for FEMA aid. Approximately 11,000 of those were referred to the agency’s Individuals and Household Program, which $15.9 million has already been allocated. The county stands at 28% of FEMA inspections completed. There is one FEMA disaster recovery center at Veterans Park in North Naples as the county waits for more FEMA teams to arrive.
“We want to remind folks that it takes a little time to get through this process,” Summers said. “So be patient, work with the staff that you have an opportunity to meet with whether it’s on the ground or at these locations. The sector has to make a site visit with you and will do their best to make three or four calls to make an appointment. But stay engaged with them and they will make sure that these services continue to go forward.”
FEMA is working with the county to further provide transitional housing support; however, this has not been an easy task due to damage to many hotels.
“The good news is the program is there, a difficulty right now is that there’s not many hotel rooms but as they become available, they certainly provide an option,” Summers said. “And other housing programs are frankly being evaluated by the state and FEMA right now.”
Waste Management is on day seven of debris cleanup as more than 130,000 cubic yards of debris has been removed. There is currently a concentration on areas that have been heavily affected by storm surge. It is expected that 1.7 million cubic yards of construction and demolition debris will be collected due to Hurricane Ian. This is a massive amount compared to the 170,000 total cubic yards of debris collected from Hurricane Irma in 2017. As of right now, there is only one debris management site compared to the six post-Irma.
“We have 10 times more construction demolition debris in this storm than was in Irma, a lot of these debris sites are permitted for vegetation waste, construction and demolition is a whole different animal,” said Kari Hodgson, director of waste management. “So, when it comes to the space, the eyesore that this brings, it’s much different as well as the FDP requirements. That’s a lot of the challenge that we’ve faced with this.”
Waste Management is bringing in 10 additional trucks today to assist with the location site as the county tries to find more areas that will allow the demolition debris.