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South county still waits for pickup

After Hurricane Frances, the Macfarlanes gathered the broken tree limbs strewn about the yard of their Pinellas Point home and placed them in a pile for city workers to pick up.

Then they waited and waited and waited.

"We've been wondering when they were going to pick it up," said Bill Macfarlane, noting Wednesday that the pile in his driveway is still there. "We thought they just forgot about us."

City officials said they have not forgotten about neighborhoods like Macfarlane's south of Central Avenue, where piles of debris still line the streets.

Tom Lehman, spokesman for the city's sanitation department, said more than half the debris from the storm has yet to be picked up _ and it will take another two to three weeks for it all to be removed.

"Our crews are working seven days a week and 10 hours a day trying to maneuver through the city," he said. "We started on most of the coastal areas and are working toward the center of the city."

Lehman said some residents and Progress Energy have slowed the collection process by adding to the already existing piles of debris.

"People decided to cut down hazardous limbs and they added to the piles from Frances," he said. "Also, Florida Progress has decided to do line maintenance and they've gone through the entire city and cut vegetation along the power lines, dropping the material on the ground."

Aaron Perlut, a Progress Energy spokesman, said the company needed to conduct the work.

"We have no intention of hindering any other work but we need to secure the stability of our system so customers can receive service," he said.

Meanwhile, residents are frustrated. Lew Hagerman, who also lives in Pinellas Point, said the city has given him several false pick-up dates.

"I've called almost every day," said Hagerman, who has a 5-foot tall pile of debris in his yard. "It's a rat's nest and I'm worried it's going to kill the lawn."