Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 11, 2017

 

In this news brief: A house fire in Lakeland leaves one person dead; a bystander is injured in a shooting; police are teaching K-9s water rescue skills; Lowe’s is hiring 200 employees to help Irma recovery efforts; local breweries are working together to make a beer with proceeds going towards hurricane relief.

Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 9, 2017

In the news brief: Florida senator proposes statewide ban on bump stocks; gas prices are finally going back down after hurricanes Harvey and Irma; Hernando deputies are on the search for a runaway sexual predator; HART will make transit easier; USF doctors are heading to Puerto Rico to help with hurricane Irma relief.

Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 4, 2017

In the news brief: The fire that damaged an elementary school is ruled an accident; A car crash forces Tampa police to close a major intersection; Hillsborough county is working to speed up Irma storm debris removal; Bradenton is under a boil water notice; Bay area families took to the streets today in celebration of National Walk To School Day.

 

Storm Debris Collection Underway for Tampa Residents

Tampa – Two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through Tampa Bay, residents are still waiting for storm debris to be picked up.

Tampa residents were quick to clean up the aftermath of Irma. Branches and palm fronds were piled up on the curb. Fallen trees were cut into manageable pieces and piled on the side of the road for pickup.

The company contracted by the City of Tampa to assist with storm debris collection, Ceres Environment, had planned to rent about 30 trucks to add to the five they currently have in use in Tampa. However, those trucks are now headed for South Florida instead.

“The subcontractor received a higher-price offer from another entity in South Florida and did not provide the trucks to Ceres for use in Tampa,” Stanley Bloodworth, the company’s project manager for Tampa, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “Ceres is actively seeking additional resources from other subcontractors to fulfill the needs of the city of Tampa.”

The demand for trucks is higher than the supply, and the suppliers are going to whoever is paying the most. Tampa is paying $9.77 per cubic yard to get rid of 300,000 cubic yards of storm debris and South Florida is offering more.

Greg Meyer, a resident in the Palmetto Beach community of Tampa, had a large tree fall on his property and spent four hours cutting it up and moving it to the curb. A week and a half later and the debris is still sitting on his front lawn.

“I know they’re trying their hardest, but I’d like to let my kids play out front again soon,” Meyer said. “It’s just too risky letting them play near a four and half foot pile of debris.”

While the city is reviewing contracts to make sure contractors haven’t violated the law, parks and recreation and sanitation workers are now collecting storm debris. Because of this, parks will take longer to clean up.

Ceres is still working to collect storm debris with the trucks they have in use now, and residents can expect the collection process to take continue well into October.

While residential and commercial garbage collection resumed fairly quickly, recycle and yard waste collection will not resume until Monday, Sept. 25. The city’s Solid Waste Enhanced Environmental Program (S.W.E.E.P.) is suspended until further notice.

Even though regular yard waste collection resumes this week, the excess debris which cannot be bagged will be collected under the storm debris removal program. This program asks residents to follow specific guidelines for putting their debris out for collection.

Residents are being asked to separate their debris by material type: white goods, construction material, vegetative debris and electronics. Vegetative storm debris should not be bagged or placed in containers. Storm debris contractors will be using special machinery to collect debris piles. For these to be collected, they must be placed on the curb.

Citywide storm debris collection service will be taking place seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27.

Those who would like to get rid of debris sooner can take it to one of Hillsborough County’s three yard waste collection sites. These sites are open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Falkenburg Road – 346 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa 33619
  • Northwest County – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton 33534

To discard nonvegetative waste or debris, residents may drop off at any of the following Community Collection Centers listed below.

  • Alderman’s Ford Solid Waste Facility – 9402 County Road 39, Plant City, FL 33567
  • Hillsborough Heights Solid Waste Facility – 6209 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584
  • Northwest County Solid Waste Facility – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County Solid Waste Facility – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton, FL 33534

McKay Bay Disposal Facility is also accepting storm debris, located at 112 South 34th St., Tampa 33605.

The facilities listed above require a photo ID to dispose of waste, and McKay Bay requires proof of a city utility customer account as well.

USF communications during Irma cause mixed reactions

As Hurricane Irma threatened the state of Florida, there was a feeling of unease for some USF students and Tampa residents.

Tampa homeowners and businesses boarded up their windows and stood by while the storm made landfall in the Keys as a Category 4.

In the days before landfall, students on the USF class Facebook pages expressed concern and speculated about classes being canceled. USF Dean of Students Danielle McDonald first communicated to students the possible effects of the hurricane on Sept. 5, writing that decisions about campus closures would not be made until later in the week.

The following day, McDonald told students campus would be closed for the rest of the week and through the weekend. As days passed and Irma’s path shifted, more communications were provided. Florida Gov. Rick Scott mandated that state offices and schools close Sept. 8-11. USF canceled classes Sept. 7-13.

Dean of Students Danielle McDonald sent out a series of emails as Hurricane Irma approached to inform students of safety procedures and campus closures. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Dean of Students

Throughout this time, USF Tampa decided not to evacuate students living on campus.

“We are not in a flood zone and are further away from the coastal areas,” McDonald said in an email to students. ” … I hope to reassure you that the campus and our surrounding neighborhoods, where most of you live, is considered safer than other areas.”

In the time leading up to the storm, USF communicated with students to educate them on precautions to take and ways to prepare. McDonald included tips for hurricane preparation in an email to students. USF also has a page dedicated to emergency preparation.

Infographic by Kylie Buklad

However, as Irma approached, some students living on campus became nervous for their safety despite reassurance from the university.

Taira Zavala, a senior at USF, chose to go with her family to Texas to wait out the storm.

This is Zavala’s first year living in off-campus housing. She waited until Saturday night to finally evacuate. The days leading up to the storm took quite a toll on her, she said.

“I was incredibly stressed the week before the hurricane,” Zavala said. “I could not help but think that I should evacuate … My anxiety was just so terrible and I knew if I stayed it would only get worse. The storm was not as bad as I anticipated, but for my mental state it was the right move.”

Zavala questioned the timeline of campus communications and cancellations at USF.

“I definitely feel that they could have made the decisions in a timelier manner,” Zavala said. “I know many students that evacuated so I think it would have been the right move to close down the school for the remainder of that week.”

Zavala was not the only student to leave USF ahead of Hurricane Irma. Dillon Sunderland, a junior at USF, decided to evacuate the Wednesday before the hurricane hit Florida.

“This was the first time I have experienced a major threat on campus,” Sunderland said. “I felt unsafe in my [off campus] apartment because of the lack of storm windows, and the fact that I’m on the first floor, so flooding was a concern.”

Sunderland has been living in campus housing for over a year. He may have felt unsafe in his USF affiliated apartment, but Sunderland said he thinks that USF handled the emergency well.

“They closed school early enough to allow people to evacuate,” Sunderland said.

USF System President Judy Genshaft released a video about the impact of Irma on USF. She spoke of the efforts of USF faculty housing and feeding students that stayed on campus for the storm. She said almost 800 people were housed in the Sun Dome, which is a special needs shelter for Hillsborough County, during Irma. Genshaft said she was proud that USF could keep so many people housed and fed during the storm.