Sarasota debris removal company investigated by AG Bondi for unfair business practices

AG: Three debris-removal companies accused of hiking rates or not showing up to clean Irma debris

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Many Sarasota County residents will have to wait until December to have their Hurricane Irma debris removed.

Contractors have abandoned the county for more lucrative contracts elsewhere. It’s a problem seen throughout the state, and now the attorney general’s office is stepping in.

Across Sarasota County, rotting leaves and decaying limbs can be seen along neighborhood streets. Weeks after Hurricane Irma passed through, these roadside attractions are an eyesore and most of it might not be picked up anytime soon.

“Could be a fire hazard,” said Venice resident Chuck Kelley.

“It’s kinda scary because you don’t know what’s lurking around in all the brush and under the wood, I’ve seen a coyote and that’s scary,” said Venice resident Ginny Sorrentino.

Officials tell us last month, subcontractors hired to clean up Sarasota County never showed up. Instead, they went south in pursuit of a bigger payday.

In a statement, Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Sitting debris is a health and safety hazard and needs to be removed as soon as possible — but instead of doing their jobs and helping Floridians recover, apparently some contractors are delaying the work or requesting higher rates.”

So this week, the attorney general issued investigative subpoenas to three debris removal companies – Ceres Environmental Services, AshBritt Inc. and DRC Emergency Services.

The subpoenas are being issued pursuant to Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Ceres Environmental Services is based in Sarasota. They sent the following statement from David Preus, senior vice president, to News Channel 8:

“Ceres has, and always will, strive to provide excellent service for our customers.  We are in receipt of the request from the Attorney General and are evaluating the next steps for compliance. In the meantime, our contracts and resulting commitments to our customers will remain our No. 1 priority.”

Locals are frustrated at the alleged greed.

“It’s gotta be regulated so people don’t have to overpay and don’t get gouged, it’s terrible,” said Kelley.

The companies could face some hefty fines.

In the meantime, the work goes on. County officials stress there’s a need for cleanup throughout the state. The cleanup effort may not wrap up until December.

“Pretty much all 67 counties are having the same issue that we are of getting our contractors to have enough resources in,” said Emergency Management Section Chief Scott Montgomery. “We’re working as quickly as we can and as feverishly as we can to get more resources to come in and begin the cleanup.”

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