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Small debris removal business says it is being blocked from cleaning its own community

Posted at 11:22 PM, Sep 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-22 23:22:47-04

If you are still looking at a pile of yard debris on your curb, you are far from alone.

Employees at ABC Transfer, a small business in Clewiston which does debris removal, want to help.

But, Carolina Bentacor, whose family owns the business, says the government is keeping them from doing as much as they can to clean up the mess left behind by Hurricane Irma.

They also say they’re not the only local company with this issue.

It all comes down to 'red tape', Bentacor says. Her company has been approved by the state to do cleanup anywhere in Florida.

Already they’ve begun working in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. But they can not get approval from FEMA to do work in their own community.

“It feels hopeless,” Bentacor said. “It’s been a week and a half and not one tree limb has been picked up in our community.”

Meanwhile, her business has at least a dozen trucks, and employees, ready to go to work in Clewiston. Right now, they’re going unused.

“If the governor doesn’t start okay-ing local contractors, it’s going to be months before anyone gets here.”

Governor Rick Scott has voiced his concern with the slow moving pace of debris removal in the state.

That’s why Bentacor questions why they can’t get to work with all of their equipment.

They can not afford to do the work for free, and FEMA hasn’t approved reimbursement for local contractors. Clewiston city leaders have also voiced their frustration.

“If you want local contractors, and they’re available, use them,” Bentacor said. “We’re going to do it for less than these large companies that are out of state.“

But for now, that does not matter.

Bentacor explains contractors are focusing where there is more debris, first. That makes sense to her.

She doesn’t understand why she still can’t get her unused equipment working in smaller communities, which could take much longer to get attention from other contracted businesses from out of the area.

It could speed along the process, she said. In fact, she says Clewiston could be mostly cleaned up if they had approval after the storm.

“There would be no more debris in Clewiston.”

A spokesperson for FDOT told WPTV that FDOT is focused on debris removal on state roads in all counties impacted by Hurricane Irma to help ensure those communities get cleaned up as soon as possible. FDOT is also reaching out to ABC Transfer, they say.

Thursday, Governor Rick Scott released a statement saying, “I have been speaking regularly with city and county leaders to make sure our communities have the resources they need to prepare, respond and recover from this massive storm. One of our top focuses has been on making sure debris from the storm is quickly cleared so families can get back to their homes, power can be turned on, and communities can rebuild. This week, I have heard from many local communities from across the state that believe they are being price gouged by debris removal contractors. Many mayors have told me there are companies not following contracts by removing debris.
 
“Today, I am also asking debris removal companies in Florida and across the country who can provide services to our counties in need at a fair price to contact the Florida Department of Transportation so FDOT can immediately connect these businesses with counties in need. We will continue to do all we can to help ensure communities get cleaned up.”

Bentacor hopes the state will answer their call, and allow them to do more to help.