Nearly eight years after Hurricane Wilma ripped through Florida, Hollywood will receive $4.6 million to cover the costs of clean-up and removal of dangerous stumps and limbs.
The city has been fighting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency for years to get reimbursed the cost of cleaning up the trees destroyed by the storm. FEMA originally determined the city had not counted correctly and only paid the Hollywood about $100,000. A year later, FEMA added about $720,000.
But the city argued it was eligible for federal disaster funds for the nearly 15,000 trees destroyed.
Vice Mayor Dick Blattner said the city never gave up, saying the money was money owed to the city.
“All of our efforts paid off,” he said.
In March 2012, the city filed its first appeal, which was denied.
In November 2012, the city filed a second appeal to the agency’s decision and on separate occasions Mayor Peter Bober, Vice Mayor Dick Blattner and Patrick Gill, from the city’s accounting division, traveled to Washington, D.C., to ask for the reimbursement.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson helped in the fight.
In a letter dated June 28, FEMA determined that “the applicant’s documentation supports the eligibility of the work performed.”
The city has not yet received the check, which will go into its coffers. The loan taken out to pay for the cleanup has already been paid back by the city, City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said.
Bober said the decision was a long time in coming.
“The money was always ours,” he said. “We just caught up in a lot of red tape.”