NEW: Wellington OKs $2.3 million to haul massive amount of Irma debris


With one of the highest debris tallies in Palm Beach County following Hurricane Irma, Wellington’s council on Tuesday night approved $2.3 million for a contractor to haul that debris away.

That price tag is the most it will cost Georgia-based contractor Tag Grinding Services to finish picking up the large piles of vegetation, fence pieces and other items left behind by the storm, village staff said.

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Crews picked up about 157,000 cubic yards of vegetation as of Monday, said Wellington purchasing director Ed De La Vega — a number Village Manager Paul Schofield said is how much Wellington typically would collect in five years.

It also is nearly twice the amount of debris hauled so far by Palm Beach County’s largest city, West Palm Beach, which has picked up about 87,000 cubic yards, according to a Tuesday update from the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County.

The village originally agreed to a $1 million purchase order with Tag Grinding, but the amount went up over the past week as the contractor sped up its routes and began a second trip through the village, De La Vega said.

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Wellington was able to move so much vegetation so quickly thanks to a system officials set up in the days after Hurricane Irma moved through: Instead of driving debris to the county’s drop-off site at 20 Mile Bend, crews instead drove truckfuls of branches, leaves and stumps to a drop-off site near the village’s dog park, where the vegetation is mulched.

In addition to the money for Tag Grinding, council members also gave the OK to spend $768,000 with a 20 percent contingency for a recycling service to dispose of that mulch pile. The council also approved $300,000 for a contractor to clear fallen trees from waterways in 23 areas in the village.

“Ultimately we’re gonna be in this for someplace between $4 (million) and $5 million,” Schofield said, adding that the village expects to be reimbursed about 85 percent by the federal government and the state.

There is $3 million in Wellington’s disaster recovery fund to cover the costs of cleaning up Irma’s mess, Schofield said, and money to pay for anything beyond that $3 million will come from the village’s solid waste reserves.

“Unlike many communities, we have the money to do it, and I want to make sure our residents know that,” Schofield told the council.

“I am personally happy because I’m amazed at what’s actually happened this quickly,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said.

The council and Schofield also took a few minutes to laud Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes for his efforts in coordinating debris removal throughout the village.

“Having watched this, we are significantly further along because of the work Jim’s been able to do,” Schofield said.

Royal Palm debris removal

Royal Palm Beach also is close to completing debris pickup, with more than 18,000 cubic yards collected so far, Royal Palm Village Manager Ray Liggins said Tuesday.

Debris collection is taking longer in the unincorporated parts of Palm Beach County near Wellington, where officials have said crews will have to work for about 90 days to clear everything.

More than 1.2 million cubic yards have been taken to the nine Solid Waste Authority sites throughout the county, according to the latest numbers provided by the company. That amount does not include Wellington or the other three municipalities that have their own collection sites: Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Delray Beach.



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