With the city of Naples holiday events starting Monday with the Christmas on Third Street tree lighting ceremony, city staff is shifting its post-Hurricane Ian mindset. City Manager Jay Boodheshwar gave a presentation to City Council on Wednesday with debris pickup updates and other Ian recovery information.
“We are on a path of returning to normal, is what we’re calling it at the staff level,” Boodheshwar said. “It’s a transition period that we’re going to be moving out of this post-disaster recovery. Recovery is going to take years, let me be clear, there are things that are going to continue for years. Rebuilding structures and dealing with code-related matters and so on and so forth.”
According to Boodheshwar, debris cleanup is nearly 90% complete in the city. Approximately 50% more debris has been picked up to date compared to after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
“A lot of material has been moved out of this community, but the work is not over,” he said. “Our work is continuing and we still have debris haulers in the city moving debris today, tomorrow and so on.”
Getting as much of the area cleaned up as possible ahead of other holiday events, such as the Christmas parade Dec. 6 is a big focus for the city. “Our goal is to get this community looking like Naples before the Christmas holidays,” Boodheshwar said.
Although the holiday season is a big motivator for completing debris pickup, these events have not impacted cleanup in other parts of the county.
“The activities for city of Naples haven’t made a shift in focus or priority,” said Kari Hodgson, director of the Solid and Hazardous Waste division. “If anything, those were the areas that were heavily impacted. I really appreciate our commissioners during this because I was concerned when this started that there would be this perception that there was focus on the tourism or certain areas of the county.”
Narrow alleyways are an area of Naples that is proving to be tough to manage for debris pickup. “We’re using our teams and smaller equipment to get to alleys,” Boodheshwar said. “We think we know about most of the situation, so if anyone knows about a situation that seems to have been missed, let us know.”
The city is starting to return to landscaping standards implemented before Hurricane Ian as Boodheshwar emphasized an increase in code enforcement beginning in the upcoming weeks.
“Immediately after Hurricane Ian came through, we obviously had to take a huge step back in terms of code enforcement, we needed people to do what they could do to get recovered,” the city manager said. “And that was working on weekends, using gas blowers, lots of noisy operations. We are starting to return to normal and what we’re starting to see is people taking advantage of the relief and normal landscaping work. We’re starting to see the gas blowers coming back out so we are beginning to let landscapers know that that’s a no no.”
A mobile disaster recovery center is being set up next to Naples City Hall on Eighth Avenue South and Eight Street South for people still needing Federal Emergency Management Agency support ahead of the application deadline of Nov. 28. Hours of operation are still to be determined.
“There are a lot of people in this community and a lot of businesses in this community that have taken advantage of FEMA support, disaster recovery and disaster relief, but there are people who still haven’t and that time is coming to an end for people to get registered,” Boodheshwar said. “We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get a center here to get those folks who have not registered, registered. And those folks who have opened claims that may have questions, they’ll have someone they can go and talk to.”
Moving forward on Dec. 7, during the city council meeting, the city staff will share a damage assessment report that will give an estimated cost of total damage and include a potential plan of action for the Naples Pier.