Bidding war for Irma debris removal

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As mountains of storm debris from Hurricane Irma pile up, several Florida counties say that firms they hired to remove debris refuse to collect it — claiming they can make more money by doing the same work for more money in South Florida.

Officials from Alachua, Hendry, Indian River, Manatee, Orange and Sarasota counties all report problems with subcontractors refusing to haul debris.

“We’ve been told that our contracted rate of $5.50 a cubic yard is not going to cut it with the [subcontractors],” Hendry County Administrator Charles Chapman said. “It would be nice if we had cash to play. But we don’t.”

Fiscally constrained Hendry is one of the state’s poorest counties. Hendry hired AshBritt Environmental and Crowder-Gulf, two major debris removal companies, to help with cleanup efforts. AshBritt, a Florida company, is based in Deerfield Beach.

Sarasota County emergency chief Rich Collins described subcontractors refusing to haul debris for its primary vendor, Crowder-Gulf. “They came through the county and said, ‘We‘re moving south, where we can make more money.’ We‘re having a difficult time getting subs.”

t’s all about profits. Collins said Sarasota pays $8 a cubic yard for debris removal, “and they’re going where they can get $15 … It’s really affecting us.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said Gov. Rick Scott expressed serious concern about vendors “breaking contracts with you.”

A day earlier, Scott issued a statement that said the accumulation of storm-related trash is a public safety issue. Scott urged counties to clear downed trees, wood and other items, saying: “The presence of debris can hinder work and delay restoration which is unacceptable.”