As mountains of storm debris pile up in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is calling in reinforcements by mobilizing National Guard troops to clear away trash in hard-hit Monroe County in the Keys.
Scott said 400 Guard troops and 40 trucks will help clear away debris in residential areas where Keys residents are blocked from returning to their homes. He said 6,000 roof tarps are also on their way to the Keys.
In Marathon Monday, Scott criticized private haulers for not showing up.
“The companies that have signed contracts around the state need to do debris removal and show up and do their job,” Scott said. “I‘m always going to side with consumers who want their debris removed, not with the companies that are trying to change the price and get paid more money after a disaster.”
Several Florida counties have complained that debris removal firms are cherry-picking their way to areas where contracts call for higher payments. But debris removal officials say the small haulers they hire as subcontractors are going first to counties that pay the most money per cubic yard of waste.
Some cities and counties have said it could take more than two months - in other words, after Halloween -- to rid Florida’s streets, yards and parking lots of Irma’s waste. That has serious public health and financial implications.
After 30 days, FEMA reduces the reimbursement rate for debris removal from 85 percent to 80 percent. With more than two months to go in hurricane season, piles of debris could be a major danger in another storm.
Scott’s activation of Guard troops comes a few days after he turned down requests by Monroe and Collier counties to seek debris removal help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A Scott spokesman, McKinley Lewis, said the governor “feels it should be handled at the local level ... with contracts the counties already have in place.”
Elaborating Monday, Lewis said: “Some companies are requesting the federal government to get involved so they can do the same work while charging taxpayers more money.”
A FEMA official said Monday afternoon that more than 1.4 million Floridians had registered for Hurricane Irma disaster assistance. That equates to $510 million in property values. The fastest way to register is at disasterassistance.gov.