Hurricane Irma update: Orange County removes 900,000 cubic yards of debris

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Please enter your email address here Debris Removal Update in Orange County From Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson            At the December 12th meeting of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, Orange County Public Works provided an update on debris removal on both County and private property. The purpose of this week’s article is to provide both a recap of Orange County’s response to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and the details of the most recent debris removal update.Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson            As a recap, Hurricane Irma directly impacted Orange County on September 11, 2017. Following the departure of the hurricane, Public Works Assessment Teams were activated to access the damage; Public Works staff began clearing major roads filled with debris. 3 removal contractors, Crowder Gulf, Ashbritt, and Ceres, and 3 monitoring companies, Whitt/O’Brien, Tetra Tech, and Landfall Strategies, were contracted with Orange County to assist with the removal of debris. Public Works met with the contractors and monitors and the notices to proceed were issued on September 11, where the debris contractors began in specific areas. At the beginning of the debris removal process, the initial estimated amount of debris that was expected to be removed was 1.3 million cubic yards. To supplement the process, Orange County activated 15 of its own crews between September 25-October 26, 2017.            To help expedite the removal process, the County opened 11 Citizen Sites in strategic locations between September 12-November 19, 2017. The sites allowed residents to dispose of yard debris prior to removal by the contractors. Contractors were not permitted to dispose of debris at the sites, and the sites had been monitored by Orange County Code Enforcement and the monitoring contractors. Upon the closure of the sites, it was reported that 19,631 residents had delivered debris to the sites.            The debris clearing process was completed in approximately 3 passes: The first pass (completed November 9, 2017) removed vegetative debris only; the second pass (began November 10, 2017) cleared up vegetative debris as well as hangers and leaners; and the third/supplemental passes (completed on December 15, 2017) cleared up construction and mixed debris. On December 16, 2017, Orange County released its Federally Funded Contractors, who are completing pick up in previously identified locations. Any remaining debris will be removed by the County’s normal Solid Waste process.  Orange County Solid Waste Management has resumed regularly scheduled curbside trash, recycling and bulk pick up.  Residents must bundle yard debris and place it in their own garbage container or bags for pick up.To date, the largest amount of yard debris removed totaled at 166,840 cubic yards during the week of October 15, 2017, with the smallest amount of yard debris removed totaling at 4,007 cubic yards during the week of December 11, 2017. The contractors have removed a total of 900,000 cubic yards of debris as of December 12, 2017, with 825,000 being vegetative debris and 75,000 being waste debris. Currently, contractors are closing-out the removal process, where they are finalizing canal and retention pond debris and reducing debris for final disposal, all of which are expected to be completed by January 2018. In addition, documents are currently being prepared for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the cost of debris removal. The costs of debris removal can be broken down into the following components: Vegetation removal; Citizen Sites; stumps; leaners and hangers; hazardous trees; construction and demolition; and monitoring services. Vegetation removal can be further broken down into the following categories: Debris removal from rights of way; debris storage at a Temporary Debris Storage and Reduction (TDSR) site; debris reduction; and final disposal of debris.            The County received 125 service tickets from 311 through 125 (out of 270 total) gated communities. Public Works reached out to the inquiring communities and did the following: Explained the process for debris removal in gated communities; scheduled 54 team visits with Homeowner’s Association (HOA) representatives; estimated debris; and discussed options for removal. Residents in gated communities had the following options for removal of debris: Rolling off the debris outside of the community (putting a dumpster outside of the community); obtaining a letter permitting them to dispose of debris at the Citizen Sites and making arrangements to put the debris on the trucks with the contractors. It was reported that 9 residents had requested letters, 1 decided to roll off, and 8 had arranged to transfer their debris to the trucks.Following the hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004, Orange County provided for an absolute funding mechanism for Gated Communities from several sources, both existing and new: OCU yard waste pick up; HOA insurance, if available; and the addition of the “Storm Debris Removal Account” in the Subdivision Regulations of the County Code. At a public hearing on February 24, 2009, the Board of County Commissioners amended the Subdivision Regulations to include the “Storm Debris Removal Account” as part of the County Code. The code now reads: “Require the establishment and maintenance of an HOA account for storm debris clean-up and removal, such as clearing downed trees, landscape, and other storm-created debris from the subdivision’s streets, sidewalks and drainage facilities, (referring to this article as the ‘storm debris removal account”) and impose the requirements and restrictions set forth in section 34-291 regarding that account.” For more information and further reading, residents can access Article VIII on gated communities via the following link:’s approach to private debris collection has been fairly consistent from 2000 to 2017. Private property owners are usually responsible for debris removal off of their property for their insurance. Additionally, in some cases, if a public threat exists, FEMA will initially approve private debris collection and then submit for reimbursement. Furthermore, reimbursements for private debris collection is not guaranteed to survive and can even be “de-obligated” years later at a close-out or upon an audit by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – Office of Inspector General (OIG) upon discovering that FEMA erred in the basis for the initial approval (review for eligibility). Close-out and audit “de-obligations” are common and take place many years later and result in the returning of funds; in 2004, the steps took over 12 years to complete before the Orange County claims were finally closed. Orange County was one of the initial large counties in the state to close-out for the hurricanes in 2004.This year, some Florida Governments are once again collecting private debris and hoping to be reimbursed by FEMA. Reimbursements may require different elements. A legitimate finding of a public threat is typically required, where many citizens have been claiming public health concerns. Additionally, a Right of Entry may have to be obtained by the private property owner (HOA). Furthermore, FEMA may require that the private owner indemnify and hold harmless FEMA, State, and local authorities. Lastly, FEMA may require that there be proof of lack of insurance coverage or other funding for removal. On the same note, the existence of the Storm Debris Removal Account in the County Code may invalidate an opportunity for reimbursement, similar to the existence of insurance coverage.last_img

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