Debris pickup trucks ditch Tampa for south Florida

Florida AG investigating potential price gouging
Posted at 10:52 PM, Sep 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-22 23:11:18-04

The Florida Attorney General is now investigating why some storm debris cleanup crews are ditching Tampa Bay for more lucrative jobs in south Florida. 

City officials claim it's causing a shortage of workers in Tampa and driving up costs at the same time. 

Iris Arroyo has been waiting for 11 days for help cleaning up the limbs that litter her front yard. 

"When that wind hit, it went everywhere," said Arroyo. "We busted our butts dragging all this stuff so they could come and pick it up. They haven't picked it up yet."

Arroyo tells ABC Action News, the piles of storm debris are a hazard for her grandchildren. 

"Every time I come out and I see it, it gets me more sad," said Arroyo. 

ABC Action News has learned, the city of Tampa hired Ceres Environmental Services to help with debris cleanup. 

Public Works Administrator Brad Baird expected them to send 30 extra trucks, in addition to five crews already working in Tampa. 

According to Baird, all of the equipment supply sub-contractors, hired by Sarasota-based Ceres, ditched Tampa for south Florida.

"Their reason was they're going for more money is south Florida," said Baird. 

Tampa pays contractors $9.77 per cubic yard of debris collected.  

Baird says some south Florida municipalities are reportedly offering about a third more at $15 per cubic yard. 

"I think it's unconscionable that these equipment suppliers would hold Florida municipalities hostage and hold these contractors hostage in times of a crisis," said Baird.  

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said Friday that this is a vital public safety issue, "My staff is currently reviewing contracts that have been provided by some cities and counties to determine if any of the contractors are violating the law."

Bondi is calling on these companies to honor their promises. "Exploiting this crisis at taxpayers' expense is outrageous and will not be tolerated." 

A spokesperson with Ceres Environmental Services would not name the sub-contractor that re-routed equipment from Tampa to south Florida. 

"Ceres is working diligently to perform cleanup work for our clients and we are making progress everyday," said David Preus. "We are bringing additional crews to Florida from several states to increase our capacity daily."