Pahokee to spend $48,982 for storm debris removal

Posted 10/27/22

Hurricane Ian left vegetation down throughout Pahokee but FEMA won’t pay for the cleanup …

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Pahokee to spend $48,982 for storm debris removal


PAHOKEE – Hurricane Ian left vegetation down throughout Pahokee but FEMA won’t pay for the cleanup, according to information shared at the Oct. 25 meeting of the Pahokee City Commission.

Commissioner Sara Perez recused herself and left the room as the discussion on this matter involved her husband’s company.

According to information shared at the meeting, several collection companies are authorized by the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority to handle emergency hurricane and debris removal.

Hurricane Ian hit Florida on Sept. 28. City Manager Rodney Lucas said he got a call from Emilio Perez Big Dog Disposal, one of the contractors authorized by the Solid Waste Authority (SWA) for debris clean up, on Sept. 30.

“I got a call Friday from Mr. Perez asking if he can start picking up the debris. I told him yes. He could start. I told him to keep in mind, I didn’t know where funding is going to come from. I was waiting on a ruling from FEMA,” explained Lucas. Lucas said when he later learned FEMA would not cover the debris pick up, he contacted Perez and collection stopped. “The clock stopped,” he said.

FEMA will only cover debris removal if the county has a disaster declaration for category A. The Pahokee area had a category B declaration, which does not cover debris removal.

Big Dog removed 2,800 cubic yards of debris over a two-week period. The total bill presented was $58,982. City staff negotitated with Perez, who agreed to drop the price by $10,000. With the discount, this is $17.49 per yard, which lower than the average fees of the other authorized vendors. 

Tickets were issued for each load delivered to a disposal facility authorized by SWA and FEMA.

“This last hurricane, was basically for our area, what I considered minor,” said Mayor Keith Babb. “I didn’t see any real major debris.”

Commissioner Clara Murvin questioned whether some of the debris collected was unrelated to the storm. “How do we know it was from hurricane?” she asked. According to SWA, the average pickup for Pahokee is 150 to 200 cubic yards of waste per week.

“The winds of the hurricane definitely affected us,” said Commissioner Juan Gonzalez. He said he saw debris stacked up everywhere. “You can’t just stack everything up at one time,” he added. “You have to cut it, stack it up, wait for it to be picked up before you can put out more. You can’t let it get on the road.”

After the storm, property owners continued hauling vegetative debris to the front of their properties for days, he said.

“The volume to me is not outrageous, but we need to tighten up our process,” said Lucas. 

“Thank God we weren’t hit harder, but I did ride around and there was vegetation all over the place,” said Commission Derrick Boldin. “There were piles of it. An example would be Martin Luther King Park. It was everywhere. The director of parks and rec can attest to it as well.”

Boldin said Big Dog “got it done” and did it for a reasonable rate.

Commissioners agreed to put payment of the bill on the agenda for the next meeting. The funding will come from the Public Services budget.

hurricane, debris, FEMA