By Jane Smith
Boynton Beach staff did an “amazing job with everything associated with Hurricane Irma,” Mayor Steven Grant said.
Because residents had 3 or 4 days warning prior to Irma, some placed sofas and other large items on the street for bulk pickup, along with tree trimmings and palm fronds. City workers couldn’t pick up all of the items before the storm, he said, leading to complaints from those residents after the storm.
As soon as the winds were down to 40 mph or lower, city crews cleared a path through the storm debris to allow Florida Power & Light and its contractors to restore the residents’ power, the mayor said Sept. 21.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, Boynton Beach will have two events to collect supplies for other areas of Florida that were harder hit by Hurricane Irma.
At the Civic Center, the mayor and commissioners will kick-off a five-day supply drive at 10 a.m. They will be joined by Amy Blackman, city recreation superintendent, and Barry Davis, executive director of the DeVos-Blum Family YMCA. Donors may drive up to the Civic Center where YMCA volunteers will unload the items until 3 p.m.
The Red Cross is asking for: bleach, diapers, baby formula, baby wipes and baby shampoo. Sports and recreation equipment, as well as toys and games, also are needed. All items must be unused. No cash or checks will be accepted.
The items will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday (Sept. 28).
The drop-off locations are: Civic Center, 128 E. Ocean Ave.; DeVos-Blum YMCA, 9600 S. Military Trail; Fire Station #2, 2506 W. Woolbright Road; Fire Station #5, 2080 High Ridge Road; and Police Department, 100 E. Boynton Beach Blvd.
On the evening of Sept.23, from 6 to 10 p.m., the Boynton Beach Arts District, 410 W. Industrial Drive, will host another supply drive for Hurricane Irma survivors in the Keys.
“We rented a truck and will take the items down on Sunday,” the mayor said.
At the Art Walk, participants are asked to bring closed footwear, first aid kits, canned goods, sanitary wipes, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, soap, buckets and rope.
The event also features live music, food trucks and vendors.
Boynton Beach streets are lined with hurricane debris.
Jeff Livergood, the city’s public works director, said it would take between 45 to 60 days to pick up hurricane debris. City crews began clearing the debris on Sept. 12. He estimates a total cost of $2.1 million.
Residents are asked to separate the vegetation debris from other storm debris, he said. They can bag the leaves, but the bags will be picked up later.
In addition, the city spent $400,000 cleaning up its parks and golf course, according to Livergood. The city’s five waterfront parks, including Oceanfront Park, opened on Sept. 15, he said.
City buildings were received $100,000 in damage, Livergood said.
The hurricane didn’t affect the Town Square plan, said Colin Groff, assistant city manager. Staff is on track to finish analyzing the plan in late October with a presentation the commission can vote on in November, he said.
Boynton Beach sewage pumping stations lost power during Irma, said Groff, who used to be the city’s utilities director.
Power went out at between 60 to 70 percent of the 167 stations, he said. The city uses a combination of fixed, portable and diesel generators as backup power, Groff said.
They had minor spills during the height of the hurricane when winds were above 40 mph, he said. The spills were reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
But unlike Delray Beach, its neighbor to the south, Boynton Beach didn’t ask its water customers to restrict water consumption.
The city also has the first county FEMA site at its Carolyn Sims Center, 225 NW 12th Ave.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Small Business Administration, volunteer groups and other agencies will be available daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to answer questions about disaster assistance and low-interest loans for homeowners, renters and businesses.
Citizens also can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362. The aid comes in the form of grants or low-interest loans for items not covered by insurance.
Boynton Beach paramedics and police officers worked non-stop during the hurricane.
Then on Sept. 13, four firefighters/paramedics headed south to Big Pine Key as part of the mutual aid group from Palm Beach County. They returned on Wednesday (Sept. 20).
On Sept. 14, six police officers drove west to Collier County, home to Naples and Fort Myers. They patrolled the roads and helped with security at gas stations. They returned on Tuesday (Sept. 19).
Signs of the hurricane damage also appeared at road construction sites.
The southbound exit ramp at Woolbright Road from Interstate 95 reopened fully Thursday (Sept. 21). On Wednesday, Florida Department of Transportation workers noticed erosion and closed the westbound exit lane from heavy rains and Hurricane Irma.
The Woolbright Road project is one of five interchange projects that are ongoing.
Work at Woolbright was supposed to be finished in December, but the bad weather likely will delay the deadline, according to an FDOT spokeswoman.
The city also saw at least one fatal overdose. A woman fatally overdosed on heroin the night before Irma hit at The Inn.