MONROE COUNTY, FL – AshBritt Inc., Monroe County’s debris
removal contractor for Hurricane Irma, sent the County an email on Oct. 25 with
a complaint for “Declaratory Relief.” In the legal complaint, AshBritt Inc. is
suing Monroe County and the Florida Department of Transportation,
alleging that it is no longer responsible for clean-up operations between
Mile Marker 16 and Mile Marker 40 in the Keys and asks the Court to declare the
"The County will defend this lawsuit,
but our main priority is to ensure that hurricane debris is removed from all of
unincorporated Monroe County as quickly as possible, and without delays,”
Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. “Our residents have been
through some tough times and removing the debris is a major part of our
recovery and rebuilding.”
The County entered into a contract with
AshBritt to handle its hurricane debris removal in unincorporated Monroe
County. With AshBritt having difficulties finding resources to fulfill the
contract after Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 10, Monroe County accepted the
assistance of the Florida Department of Transportation.
It was agreed FDOT would remove the
debris along the state right of way along U.S. 1 and on the County roads
between Mile Marker 16 and Mile Marker 40 in the Lower Keys – and that AshBritt
would remove debris in the rest of unincorporated Monroe County.
Last week, FDOT Secretary Mike Dew
sent the County a letter stating that FDOT "will remove our emergency
response crews between Mile Markers 16-40 by close of business on Friday,
County Administrator Roman Gastesi and
County Director or Engineering Services Judy Clarke, who is spearheading the
debris removal effort for the County, held a conference call with FDOT,
and formally requested that FDOT continue to remove debris from Mile
Markers 16 to 40 until a transition plan can be put in place.
“We are very appreciative of all that
FDOT has done to help Monroe County remove the unprecedented amount of
hurricane debris from our hardest hit areas,” Gastesi said. “We are
hopeful that FDOT will continue to work with us to ensure that there is no gap
in the removal of debris so our residents can rebuild their lives.”
AshBritt told the County it would not
mobilize to the area between MM 16 and MM 40 unless it received
significant rate increases and modifications to its contract. The County told
Ashbritt it must honor its existing contract. The County also cannot increase
its rates to an existing contractor and get full reimbursement from FEMA.
After Ashbritt was told the County
could not change the contract, Ashbritt filed the complaint.
While the contract is in dispute, the
County has begun to make alternative plans to possibly hire a new contractor to
complete the hurricane debris removal from MM 16 to MM 40.
“AshBritt has left the County no
choice but to find an alternative contractor,” Clarke said. “But trucks
continue to work seven days a week in the County. We have removed a tremendous
amount of debris, approaching 1 million cubic yards, in a short time. We will
continue to work to remove all the debris as quickly as we can.”
In unincorporated Monroe County, the
City of Layton and along U.S. 1, Ashbritt and FDOT contractors have combined to
collect 950,000 cubic yards of vegetative and construction and demolition
debris, and more than 5,000 white goods (major appliances).