Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Has Hit the Halfway Mark in Tree Pickup after Matthew; More Debris Hauling to Do

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Has Hit the Halfway Mark in Tree Pickup after Matthew; More Debris Hauling to Do

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Jacksonville's huge cleanup of storm-damaged trees debris has surpassed the halfway mark, officials said Thursday in an update that put the amount hauled off so far at 434,000 cubic yards - enough to fill 133 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Whether residents view that milestone as a glass half full or half empty probably depends on whether the debris they care most about - the pile in their own front yard - has been picked up yet.

Mayor Lenny Curry said Thursday the emergency storm-debris operation has hauled off as much debris in two weeks as the city collected in months after past hurricanes.

"We've been pushing each other hard, but until the last bit of debris is picked up from people's front yards, we want them to know that we're out there working for them," Curry told reporters as he inspected a cleanup crew at work in the Glynlea area.

Asked if he had a message to residents about being patient, Curry said, "I'm not asking people to be patient. We're not patient."

Curry and other city leaders have fielded emails and phone calls from residents impatiently awaiting debris-collection trucks to arrive in their neighborhoods. Common complaints are that the longer the debris stays, the more it kills grass under the debris piles while also making it harder to use sidewalks where debris encroaches on the concrete.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said the city estimates the final collection tally will be 800,000 to 1 million cubic yards, so by that measure, the city is halfway there.

The city and its debris contractor, J.B. Coxwell, continue to beef up the number of collection containers. The city started with 34 containers on Oct. 11, increased to 182 containers last week, and is up to 206 now.

"I feel good with the progress," Mousa said. "That's not to say we're going to relax and slow it down any. …

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