Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Storm Debris Lingers as Issue; Costs of Cleanup Still to Be Repaid

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Storm Debris Lingers as Issue; Costs of Cleanup Still to Be Repaid

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

With hurricane season only six weeks away, Jacksonville and the three Beaches cities are still pursuing federal reimbursements for the costs associated with last year's hurricane debris cleanup.

Like other cities and counties across the state, they are tenaciously seeking reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the money they spent to remove downed trees, branches and other storm debris.

Jacksonville and the Beaches have received some, or none, of the cleanup costs for hurricanes Charley, Francis and Jeanne, which blew through last fall.

"It's complicated for cities all over," said Neptune Beach City Manager Jim Jarboe, noting the process involves "voluminous documents," and the city has received 20 to 30 visits from FEMA officials on the issue. "It's a long, drawn-out process."

Atlantic Beach spent about $254,650 on the hurricanes, most of it for debris removal, said City Manager Jim Hanson. So far, the city has received $120,899.

Jacksonville paid roughly $19 million on the hurricane debris cleanup, city spokeswoman Kristen Key said. So far, Jacksonville has received about $203,000 from FEMA, she said.

Neptune Beach spent about $300,000 on the cleanup, using a contractor experienced with FEMA regulations, Jarboe said. Neptune Beach has received about half that and has been promised the rest is on the way.

Jacksonville Beach spent about $850,000 to remove its storm debris, City Manager George Forbes said. That city has not yet received any reimbursement checks. City officials are being told the city's claim is being processed, Forbes said.

Hurricane seasons starts June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

The reimbursement frustrations continue as a U.S. Senate committee announced April 11 it will soon hold a hearing into how FEMA distributed tens of millions of dollars in disaster funds to Miami-Dade County residents for damages reportedly caused by Hurricane Frances. Questions have been raised because that storm struck about 100 miles north of Miami-Dade County.

Also, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has urged the Senate committee to examine the possible abuse of funeral payments for hurricane-related deaths. …

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