st. St. Petersburg — Maximo Park’s overflow parking lot is a four-to-five football field wide, where subcontractor trucks haul fallen trees and branches collected from road curbs and haul out mulch.
Nearly two weeks after the damage of Hurricane Ian, the city has collected 40,000 cubic yards of plant debris, but it still has a long way to go. City officials said on Wednesday that workers had worked from St. Petersburg’s south, west and northeast coastal areas to the city center, about 40 percent completed.
Mayor Ken Welch said the cleanup should last about three more weeks.
“I would like to thank the citizens for their patience in following the instructions and dragging only the vegetation debris to the curb and not the construction debris,” he said. “And I would also like to thank our staff. As you can imagine, many carriers don’t typically do this type of work.”
Mike Jefferis, the city’s Leisure Services Administrator, is tasked with closely tracking debris removal to ensure the most accurate reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said the city is 60 square miles and the process will take a total of five weeks.
Welch said this is a timeline comparable to other cities, despite facing challenges of supply and demand and labor shortages.
“We are moving communities as quickly as possible,” says Jefferis. “We still have staff who have not cleaned their own gardens because they are concentrated in cities first and work 12 hours a day, seven days a week.”
“There are assets out there in the community that weren’t really designed to remove debris, but we’re using all available assets to clean this up as quickly as possible,” he said. I got
Eighteen teams of city officials from Parks and Recreation, Public Health, and Water Resources were pulled from projects deemed essential or non-essential to collect debris from curbs. To ensure maximum reimbursement, an auditor from Tetra Tech, the city’s debris monitoring company, will accompany you to ensure everything is collected and in compliance with FEMA guidelines.
These workers then transport the debris to collection points around the city, including the Science Center grounds, Grandview Park, and Woodlawn Park. Some use old city garbage trucks or small mules to collect debris.
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“They’re using the equipment in ways they didn’t intend,” Jefferis said.
A subcontractor for CrowderGulf Disaster Recovery & Debris Management, the city’s contract debris service, will collect the debris and truck it to the site next door to Maximo Park. A Tetra Tech supervisor then measures the load with a laser to get an accurate count of FEMA redemptions.
The city used CrowderGulf and Tetra Tech after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Jefferis said he expects the total debris collected in St. Petersburg to be half the total collected after Irma.
In the Maximo lot, Gaston Tree Debris Recycling crushes the debris into mulch. The mulch is then transported to its location in northern Pinellas County. Once the debris disposal is complete, the city property is returned to the overflow he lot for boats and trailers.