Lee County Commissioners move forward with new clean-up contract

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Paul Dolan
Cleaning up debris left behind by Ian will not be cheap. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Getting all the debris off the streets will not be cheap and on Tuesday, in a split decision, Lee County Commissioners decided to move forward with a clean-up contract.

WINK News recently reported this comes with a fair amount of questions. Particularly, one item, where the cost to haul waste out of town spiked from five cents to $40 a mile.

The large increase has gotten some negative attention around Florida, but county leaders said while it may seem steep, the overall increase in contract price, when you look at all the numbers, is around 11%.

Piles of garbage and debris left behind by Ian. (CREDIT: WINK News)

One thing people in Southwest Florida can probably agree on is, everyone has the same goal. And that’s to get all the trash and remnants left behind by Hurricane Ian out of the area quickly.

Roger Dejarlais, a county manager, spoke with WINK News about the issue.

“We’re collecting over 70 70,000 cubic yards of debris per day,” Dejarlais said.

Dejarlais mentioned they’re collecting debris nearly five times faster than they did after Hurricane Irma. And they’re using the same company, Crowder-Gulf, to take it out.

But, as soon as Crowder-Gulf has to haul it across the Lee County line, the cost to get it out of sight skyrockets.

A broken door, just another piece of debris that Ian left behind. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Doug Whitehead is the solid waste director, and he talked about how the price jumped.

“It was five cents per cubic yard of material in the 2017 contract. That means it was five for a full truck it was $5,” Whitehead said.

In the new contract, the full truck costs $40 one way, for every mile driven over the Lee County line. But, the county said that’s only taking a snapshot of the big picture.

“Under most typical work provides a savings compared to the old contract, which was inflated and like I said, over 21% over the life of the contract. So this is cost less for us,” Whitehead said. “It helps us provide continuity throughout a responsive disaster.”

Crowder-Gulf only expects to drive three miles into Charlotte County, thousands of times.

“That line item is a lot more expensive. But still, the net works for us,” Whitehead said.

The county manager signed the contract on Oct. 2, when the county was still under emergency status. So, even if every commissioner voted against it, the contract for Crowder-Gulf would stand.

And that leaves the county with the next step, trying to get reimbursement from FEMA.

County commissioner Brian Hamman spoke to WINK News about this.

“I think we are going to do everything we can to pursue FEMA reimbursement for all of this,” Hamman said. “Everything that’s eligible for FEMA reimbursement, we’ll do everything we can to pursue that reimbursement.”

One thing commissioner Kevin Ruane discussed during the meeting was being transparent. He suggested hosting a workshop to explain to people where their money is going, what has been done, and what still needs to be done.

However, there has not been a date set to do that yet.

But if you live in unincorporated Lee County and you’re wondering when the debris in your neighborhood will get picked up you can click here to check that.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.