City of Naples extends state of emergency, discusses debris pickup, transitional housing

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Naples City Council met Thursday to extend the local state of emergency within the city and discuss a handful of issues the community is facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. 

Naples City Manager Jay Boodheshwar was quick to mention the topic of debris on streets and how the utilities department in partnership with its national contractor AshBritt is responding to the tons of waste caused by the storm.

“It may not seem like they’re moving fast enough, but I can tell you based on experience and based on driving the streets and seeing the progress, progress is being made,” Boodheshwar said. “And progress will continue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, someone will be last. There will be a final home that the truck pulls up to to get debris. But we will get to everyone and there is a method to how this debris is picked up.”  

The city has inspectors who are driving the streets, determining which places are debris hotspots. Hotspots are areas that have debris causing unsafe situations due to hazardous materials. 

Boodheshwar went on to communicate the power situation along the coastline, where many residents are still experiencing no electricity. “There is a strong commitment from [Florida Power and Light] to get us restored as quick as we can,” Boodheshwar said. “I would be remiss if I didn’t say that our FPL partners have stepped up to the plate, executives have come over here from the other coast and the folks we have assigned on the ground are very communicative and very responsive to getting buildings energized as soon as our building inspectors give them the thumbs up to get them energized.” 

For damaged properties, the process of restoring power may be more intricate than many residents realize. An electrical engineer must do a review of the structure to certify it is safe to restore power or if replacement parts are needed. Once it is deemed safe, a second inspection is performed.  

“This is life safety stuff that we’re talking about here,” Boodheshwar said. “We’ve had a lot of electrical fires as power came back on and we want to try to prevent that from happening.”  

Lack of Wi-Fi and cable continues to be a point of frustration for many all throughout Southwest Florida. Council member Raymond Christman commented on the lack of communication from Comcast.  

“We got to do everything we can, I certainly did in my phone call with [Comcast], urge them as quickly as possible to provide a full and accurate story of what’s going on and a timeline of when they expect services to be a restored as best, we can,” Christman said. “We just never had that and that’s part of the frustration among people.”  

The city is continuing to work closely with Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives as more than 20,000 residents have registered for aid within the county. One thing the city is planning on pushing for with FEMA is providing transitional short-term housing for those who have been displaced. This may be done through bringing trailers to driveways to get hooked up directly to power and sewer. However, this is not a speedy process, as it could take longer than a month for the trailers to reach Southwest Florida. 

“It doesn’t happen quickly, that’s the important thing, [the trailers] are not sitting in a yard right outside the city that can just begin hauling, there is a process,” Boodheshwar said. “That process starts with the individual demonstrating that need and then working through the process.”  

According to Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMaria, it’s a matter of keeping pressure on FEMA by continuing to show the need by the community for transitional housing.  

“It’s going to be up to FEMA to push that forward to their supervisors and it’ll come from the federal government and they they’ll start deploying trailers if we’re qualified for it,” DiMaria said. “I know they’re working on that transitional housing, but I think at this point there’s not enough people that have shown the need for them to deploy that next phase of the transitional housing.”  

 City Council voted unanimously to extend the local state of emergency for at least one more week.  

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