BAY COUNTY — Bay County is now accepting applications through June 28 to help private property owners remove Hurricane Michael debris or demolish property due to the storm.
The assistance is being done through the Private Property Debris Removal (PPDR) program, a public assistance program through FEMA. Removal of storm-related debris — such as dangerous limbs, trees and stumps near a frequently used or maintained part of a property and demolition of an unsafe structure — may be eligible, following a field survey of the property, a news release stated. Panama City, Lynn Haven and other communities have established similar programs.
Participants will have to sign a Right-of-Entry (ROE) that grants the county and its contractors access for inspecting, removing and clearing storm debris and a Hold Harmless Agreement (HHA) that releases the county and others of liability from work done during the program. All properties will require inspection prior to debris removal, the release stated. Submitting an application does not guarantee a property owner qualifies.
“The final pass is ending here in the next week or so and that was a chance for us to try to really get this area cleaned up,” Bay County Community Development Director Ian Crelling said. “Obviously there’s still homes and properties out there that still have lots of damage. This program can provide a chance for those areas and homes to still get properly cleaned up.”
Copies of the program application, ROE and HHA can be downloaded at baycountyfl.gov or completed in person during business hours at the Code Enforcement Office at the Bay County Government Center at 840 W. 11th St. in Panama City or the Bear Creek Fire Station at 11771 U.S. 231 in Youngstown. From 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, packets may be completed in person at the Bay County Public Library at 898 W. 11th St.
Participants are also asked to bring a copy of the property insurance policy if the property is insured, a Proof of Loss or Statement of Loss from the insurance company if the property was insured at the time of the event, a copy of the owner’s valid Florida driver’s license or identification and a copy of the tax statement or feed to verify property ownership.
With similar programs in other communities, Crelling said county residents have been wondering when it would happen for them.
“Every little bit helps. Countywide, with all the cities, we’ve had 15.5 million cubic tons of debris pickup,” said Crelling. “But as you can see when you drive around, there’s still a lot of homes out there that were vacant before the storm or were so badly damaged perhaps the homeowners don’t have the ability to go on that property yet.”
Debris removal from vacant lots, unimproved property, unusued or unmaintained areas of a property and agricultural lands used for crops or livestock, as well as concrete slabs or foundations on grade are not eligible under the program.
In other county recovery news, FEMA has approved $18,585,398 to the state of Florida to assist Bay County with reimbursement for the costs of debris removal following Hurricane Michael under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.
“We’re very happy for that. We can start paying back some of these loans that we’ve taken out,” said County Commission Chairman Philip “Griff” Griffitts. “It’s extremely vital. Our debris bill can be around $380 million. Any time we get this money back from FEMA, we turn around and pay off our debt service. We’re at $250 million in debt right now, so any time we get funding back from the federal government, we turn around and put it right back on those notes we owe money on.”