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Lee County Commissioner says 'no need to panic' regarding FEMA deadline

Fort Myers Beach
Posted at 4:54 PM, Oct 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-19 04:57:38-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla — A day after a Fort Myers Beach Councilman said not meeting the federal debris removal deadline could potentially bankrupt the town, we went to Lee County officials for more answers.

According to Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman, there is no reason to panic.

“We have no indication that the federal government or the state government is going to let us down,” Commissioner Hamman said.

That was Commissioner Hamman's response after we asked him if the County is concerned about the current 60-day federal deadline for Ft. Myers Beach Debris being cleared.

“Everybody has been asking ‘what do you need?' and our answer has always been we are going to need extensions,” Commissioner Hamman explained.

An extension Fort Myers Beach Councilman Veach explained why that is needed. If the federal deadline is not met, councilman Veach said FEMA will stop covering the costs—resulting in millions and millions of dollars that the county and town would have to pay.

"If we end up getting with the expense — even a small portion, it could bankrupt the town, it could even financially hurt Lee County as well,” said Councilman Veach in an interview on Monday.

But Commissioner Hamman assures there is no reason to panic. He explained that going into cleanup the county initially requested 120 days.

"They said, ‘the process is we can do the first 30-day extension and get you to 60 now and then we can come back every 30 days and do those extensions.’ So far everybody knows that is going to be our request," Commissioner Hamman said.

Monday was the start of a temporary split access plan for the town of Fort Myers Beach, which will only allow residents on the island Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the foreseeable future. The county made this request to speed up the process of debris removal.

"While it really stinks not to let people back to their houses on Mondays and Tuesdays to have that only for the haulers it's needed," Commissioner Hamman said. "As you know Fort Myers Beach on a good day pre-storm was always gridlock and what we were seeing out there was just total gridlock. Between all of the utility companies, all of the haulers, and of course the homeowners and hired contractors."

When asked when will the limited access be lifted, the county responded that it's still under further notice.