Category Archives: Florida

Stephen Bacon’s beef with Irma bills called ‘bunk’

Interim City Manager Ron McLemore defended himself and city staffers after Stephen Bacon alleged costly bungling of rapid-cleanup contracts approved after Hurricane Irma.

The City Council member on Wednesday questioned debris-removal deals negotiated under emergency conditions and approved unanimously by the City Council to protect the public days after the storm ripped across Florida in September.

Ron McLemore
Ron McLemore

“That is such a pile of bunk that I don’t even want to answer you,” McLemore told Bacon.

Mayor Bob Garcia defended McLemore, saying Bacon’s recollection of what happened “is not actually correct.”

Other council members remained silent during the heated exchange between Bacon and McLemore.

Wednesday’s showdown marked the lasted flashpoint between Bacon and his colleagues.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

Contractor shortage

Contractors were hard to find in Florida after Irma’s passage. Hurricane Harvey’s damage to Texas ramped up demand.

On Sept. 20, as limbs piled high along DeBary roadways, McLemore offered options for City Council members for the express-debris removal they wanted.

Bacon and the other council members picked the most expensive option – estimated to cost $540,000 – to hire two contractors – Waste Pro and DRC.

DRC got a standard rate negotiated a year before the storm of  $7.62 per cubic yard for removal of debris on public roads.

After the storm, as contractors ran to south Florida for higher rates, Waste Pro negotiated a $15.78 cubic yard rate for pickup on private roads.

Storms pinch budget

Initially, the city estimated it would cost $540,000 for all debris pickup. That amount nearly tripled to $1.5 million because Irma downed more trees and limbs than expected.

City officials are trying to get funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Irma and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 for that could take months or longer.

Those two storms combined cost DeBary taxpayers $1.8 million over two budget years, putting pressure on city finances.

If the hurricanes had not happened, the city’s 2017 general fund would have closed with a $562,000 positive cash flow.

Instead, it had a negative balance of $75,000.  Reserves were used to balance the budget.

Bacon blasts costs

As far as costs for Irma, city staffers are still examining the bills and may have a full accounting of the expenditures within the next two weeks.

Bacon said he’s upset because Waste Pro hired a subcontractor and made more than he expected from the city. He thought Waste Pro would make 40 percent of the contract.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

The remaining 60 percent, he thought, would go to the cheaper contractor.

“But in actuality, it turned around,” Bacon said. “No one expected that they would find a contractor. Why didn’t we find a contractor that would work for a lower price?”

Bidding wars


McLemore reminded Bacon that he, along with other council members, approved the contracts, the city was facing an emergency and contractors were hard to find as two states cleaned up from separate hurricanes.

Then Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

There were reports of bidding wars with contractors leaving unfinished jobs to get better-paying ones elsewhere.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

In the situation we were backed up into at that particular time, we couldn’t get people to turn around and come to the city of DeBary on our original agreement. And it had to do with the federal government saying that they could charge the additional money,” Garcia said. “We were the first city to have everything picked up and cleaned up so we did a very very good job as far as that’s concerned.”

‘Premium’ on public safety

Local governments across Florida experienced problems with a shortage of contractors and equipment after Irma.

It hit just two weeks after Harvey slammed Texas.

“You put a premium, this council put a premium, and I agree with you, to get this place cleaned up as quick as possible for public safety,” McLemore said. “We did it. We did in a great way. And we were one of the first to get cleaned up when other people were still trying to get trucks.”

McLemore said Bacon’s concern that the Waste Pro subcontractor didn’t have a performance bond with the city is unfounded. That sub was covered by Waste Pro’s bond and insurance. “This is just a bunch of misinformation and I resent the fact that it’s put out here,” McLemore said.

‘That’s legitimate’

He said he hasn’t been able to provide a  full accounting of all the costs because staffers are finding mistakes on the bills and sending them back to the contractors.

After the charges are checked out, McLemore will make a presentation about the costs to the City Council.

“We have sent these bills back to the company telling them they are incorrect because we are performing the pre-auditing function you should know all about,” McLemore told Bacon, an accountant.

Bacon’s response: “That’s legitimate.”

“Of course it is,” McLemore replied. “Your staff doesn’t sit around twiddling their fingers trying to find something to do. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do, and what they know to do and they’re doing it quite well.”

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DeBary Hurricane Irma debris cleanup at halfway point

Roughly half of the debris from Hurricane Irma has been picked up since the storm hit Florida, DeBary City Council members learned Wednesday.

City contractors have cleared about 30,000 cubic yards of debris — about twice as much as originally expected for the entire job,  Alan Williamson, the city’s director of public works, told city council members.

The debris pickup is expected to continue for another two weeks.

Williamson said the cleanup will cost more than originally expected, though how much more wasn’t immediately clear.

Two weeks ago, the City Council approved a rapid-pickup plan for $540,000, hiring two contractors – Waste Pro and DRC – to pick up from public roads,  as well as from private roads in gated subdivisions.

That plan was approved when the city estimated it had about 15,000 cubic yards to pick up.

The council praised Williamson and other staffers for their hard work before, during and after the storm.

Williamson said the city provided more than 8,000 sandbags to residents before the storm.

Nearly 30 large trees fell and were removed by staffers during Irma, Williamson noted.

He said nearly 12 inches of rain fell during Irma and no homes flooded.

Homes in the River City flooded in 2004 and 2008.

Since then, the city installed $30 million worth of stormwater upgrades.

“Zero flooding, Mr. McLemore,” an appreciative Mayor Bob Garcia told interim City Manager Ron McLemore. “Zero flooding. The system worked.”

Tropical Storm Fay in 2008 dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

City staffers pledged to try for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs associated with Hurricane Irma debris removal.

FEMA already owes DeBary nearly $400,000 for Hurricane Matthew, which hit Central Florida a year ago.

In other actions Wednesday:

The DeBary City Council gave initial approval to a zoning change for an assisted-living facility.

The 40-foot, three-story Canterwood Manor Assisted Living Facility is planned on nearly 8 acres northeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive.

The 120-bed facility will replace two existing single-family rental homes on property owned by Charles and Saundra Grey of DeBary.

Council members also gave second approval to a 289-unit apartment complex planned on the other side of Dirksen Drive.

Construction on Hawthorne Landing could begin in spring 2018 with completion set for summer 2019.

Hawthorne Landing (also called Integra 289 Exchange) is planned on 16 acres southeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive on land commonly known as the Costa property.

Breastfeeding in Volusia: 3 percent hike

Volusia moms are doing a better job of breastfeeding their babes.

The county’s breastfeeding rate jumped by 3 percent from 2011 to 2015, the Volusia County Health Department announced Tuesday. But Volusia is behind compared to the rest of the Sunshine State. Florida’s rate of increase during that period was 5.6 percent. Those details were released in a new report released by the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County, according to spokeswoman Holly Smith.

The report was prepared to coincide with National Breastfeeding Month, which is August.

“According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there is no better food than breast milk for a baby’s first year of life,” the report said.

“A significant body of evidence supports breastfeeding as critical to improve health outcomes of mothers and babies,” Florida State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said in a statement. “Supporting mom and baby during the first few days of life are critical for successful breastfeeding.”

On a national level, the percentage of babies who start out breastfeeding increased from 73 percent in 2004 to 83 percent in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breastfeeding rates vary among women of different races in Volusia County.

“For example, Hispanic mothers are the only racial/ethnic group that has exceeded a national breastfeeding goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” a news release said.
“Black mothers consistently had lower breastfeeding rates than white and Hispanic mothers.”

In Volusia County, the ZIP code with the highest breastfeeding
percentage among (WIC) mothers was 32130 in the DeLeon Springs and Barberville areas with 88.2 percent.

The DeBary-area ZIP code of 32713, came in at 82.4 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum was Oak Hil-area ZIP code 32759 with 47.1 percent.

Local officials with the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food and health-care assistance program are working to improve breastfeeding rates.

Two-hour classes for new and expectant mothers are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on these dates and at these locations:

  • Tues., Sept. 5, at 775 Harley, Strickland Blvd., Orange City.
  • Wed., Sept. 13, at 717 W. Canal Street, New Smyrna Beach.
  • Thurs., Sept. 21, at 1845 Holsonback Dr., Daytona Beach.

“Each evening class is a one-time session,” the news release states. “Reservations are suggested but not required.”

Details:  volusiahealth.com/wic or call 866-WIC FOOD (942-3663).

Other resources:

  • La Leche League International: Call 1-800-LALECHE or www.lalecheleague.org.
  • Breastfeeding Helpline: Call 1-800-994-9662 or www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding.
  • Florida WIC Program Services: Call 1-800-342-3556 or visit the WIC website

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