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Clearwater releases initial Hurricane Irma damage report
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Photo by KATHRYN WILLIAMS
The city of Clearwater’s solid waste department will incur significant costs removing debris in residential areas.
CLEARWATER – As Hurricane Irma fades a bit further in the rearview mirror, Clearwater leaders and residents are left cleaning up and repairing the damage left in her wake.

While the city on the whole was quite lucky, it was not left totally unscathed.

Clearwater Emergency Management Assistant Chief Javon Graham presented city leaders with a preliminary rough damage assessment for public and private property on Sept. 18 during a council meeting at city hall.

‘This has ended up being a more labor-intensive type of event,” Graham said. “However, we have had some damage to the city of Clearwater buildings and also to some private property as well.”

Early estimates indicate the city suffered just short of $1 million in damages at $986,276, with private property owners coming in with damages totaling approximately $322,000, Graham said.

“A lot of this is still estimates but it kinda gives an idea of what kind of damage we will be requesting support for from the state and government and kind of what we are dealing with in the aftermath from when Irma came through,” he said.

According to the report, city facilities with some form of damage include the Barefoot Beach House, which sustained roof damage, at an estimated cost of $140,000; the Clearwater Beach Marina and downtown marina, which sustained damage to its power pedestals and fishing dock, in the amount of $400,00 to $500,000; and damage to Spectrum Field, which included a lost video board, damage to speakers, lights, kiosks and ceiling leaks, in the estimated range of $20,000 to $50,000.

The city’s parks and recreation department has also reported damage throughout its various facilities, including downed baseball fencing, and damage to roofing and roll down doors at Pier 60, field goal posts, fishing piers, pool pumps at Ross Norton Recreation and Aquatic Complex and storage facilities at the Clearwater Country Club. Repairs are estimated to cost $250,000, Graham said.

The city’s engineering department said that although a lot of traffic signage survived, some was heavily damaged. Estimated cost to repair damaged pedestrian signals and signal heads throughout the city is $46,276.

The public utilities department is reporting approximately $40,000 worth of damage to infrastructure and an additional $60,000 possibly for labor costs. The solid waste department is also incurring significant costs removing debris left by residents, Graham said.

In the private sector, Graham said inspectors report 30 homes, mainly manufactured homes, with major damage at an estimated cost of $172,000 and minor home damage to 385 residences, with an estimated repair cost of $150,000.

City Manager Bill Horne said employees of the city’s solid waste department are working six and seven days a week in efforts to collect and dispose of storm debris, but he was hesitant to give a date for the completion of the work.

“I do not want to be in a situation to where I give you a specific date and then we don’t get it done,” Horne said. “We’re all familiar with what happens when you do that.”

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos asked residents to be patient as the city recovers in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s important to know that staff has been working very hard in doing so and that they are not going to stop,” Cretekos said. “As I said earlier today, if we had a magic wand, everybody would be picked up immediately and at the same time so that we wouldn’t be hearing those complaints.

“No matter where we drive in the city, we’re going to have debris, and please just be patient with us, please be understanding and staff will get to it as quickly as possible,” he continued.

Closing comments:

Councilmember Doreen Caudell: We’ve just went through something that is a practice run – we lucked out. We dodged a bullet. Because had we had this as a Category 3 or better, it would have a lot different circumstances. I think everyone worked together very well, with all things considered. We just, I think, need to encourage everyone to be careful, be safe. There are a lot of things we learned.

Councilmember Bob Cundiff: I want to thank all of the volunteers throughout the city. You go from neighborhood to neighborhood and see neighbors helping neighbors. It’s really wonderful to see that. I also want to thank the Church of Scientology and their hundreds of volunteer ministers.

Councilmember Hoyt Hamilton: The appreciation I have gained through this experience for my father’s generation and how they survived and lived in this climate without air conditioning … Many of our residents had to deal with it a few days. My dad lived the most part of his young life without it 365 days a year. For that generation, many of whom are friends of mine and friends of my family, I’ve got great respect for ya. You’re very good people.

Councilmember Bill Jonson: People of course come first when restoring power, but there I also a significant impact to our economy. There were stores and businesses and people did not have jobs for days and weeks as a result of this storm. Some of the technology businesses in downtown Clearwater were literally out of business for almost a week because of the failure of a transformer. I look forward to the after-action, post-implementation reports and analysis of how we can be more resilient.

Mayor Cretekos: There have been countless number of people in our community who have done random acts of kindness. From the Church of Scientology to Publix to hundreds of people we don’t know. But that is appreciated by the entire community and we are grateful for that. We were blessed. We could have had a Category 4 storm hit us. To our police, to our fire, to our solid waste to everybody in our city who works for the city – public utilities, public information, gas – even though we may not show it because we get impatient, we appreciate the work that the entire staff has done.
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