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More help on way for pickup of storm debris

For city residents wondering during the past week when the contractor hired by the county would rumble in and haul off storm debris, the simple answer is: It won't be.

But there's no need to fret anymore, because a city-hired contractor will do the job.

Officials decided late this week to hire Waste Management Inc. to pick up vegetative storm debris between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. today and Sunday, City Manager Susan Boyer said on Friday.

And if residents can't get the debris out in time for this weekend's pickup, the trucks will make the rounds again between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 2 and Oct. 3, Boyer said.

"We need everybody to put their stuff out by Oct. 1. When the trucks come by on (Oct. 2 and Oct. 3), they aren't coming by again," Boyer said.

After next weekend, she said, city sanitation crews will return to the normal weekday vegetative debris and yard waste pickup schedule.

This arrangement might confuse some residents, who after reading articles in local newspapers thought Asplundh Environmental Services Inc., the contractor hired by Citrus County officials, would pick up the debris starting Sept. 20.

The city had never joined that collection regime.

During meetings at the county Emergency Operations Center soon after Hurricane Frances, officials from Crystal River, Inverness and the county met to discuss the cleanup efforts, including whether either city wanted to join the county's debris pickup effort.

"The city of Inverness elected to do so, and the city of Crystal River said they had other plans," said County Commission Chairman Josh Wooten. "I left the meeting feeling comfortable that the city of Crystal River had other provisions in place."

After the meeting, Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni sent a letter to the county saying the city "will be responsible for costs incurred in the delivery of services within the city limits. . . ."

On Sept. 10, the Crystal River City Council convened an emergency meeting and hired SMG Inc., and also approved alloting $200,000 in a reserve fund to pay for the cleanup. The contractor later billed the city roughly $170,000, a majority of which will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Boyer said.

Boyer said on Friday the city needed the contractor immediately because some roads in sections of the city, such as Bunts Point and Woodland Estates, were choked with fallen trees and branches.

"I needed immediate assistance to get that cleared so emergency vehicles could pass," she said, adding that city sanitation and public works crews did not have the equipment to remove such large trees.

Boyer said she couldn't wait until Sept. 20, the date when county officials said the county debris collection would begin.

SMG picked up storm debris that some residents already had collected and left at the curb, Boyer said. And after SMG completed its work, city sanitation workers also picked up debris and unloaded it at an alternate landfill set up by the county on Maylen Avenue.

But some residents, who may have been slowed in collecting their debris by power outages and the plodding pace of recovery, still have their debris stacked on their front lawns. They may have thought it would be picked up in the county's effort.

Waste Management, the company recently selected as the exclusive trash hauler in the city, will charge the city $15 per cubic yard for the debris, Boyer said. After the collection, they will send the city a bill, which also will be reimbursed in large part by FEMA funds, she said. The city would pay the remainder, or roughly 12 percent, of the bill, she said.

The county was predicting that Asplundh will pick up 40,000 cubic yards of debris. Officials have set aside $600,000 to pay the company, which breaks down to about $15 per cubic yard of debris.