Jackson County’s mowing contractor Jeff Speed speaks at one of several Jackson County Commission meetings he’s been summoned to over the term of his contract, here explaining some of the challenges he faces in Jackson County.

Among the challenges of Hurricane Michael recovery is the tangle that the county’s mowing contractor faces in trying to keep the rights-of-way clear of tall grass along county roads. Jackson County government is asking for the public’s patience as the issues making that task difficult are sorted out.

Even before Hurricane Michael occurred, some Jackson County Commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the mower’s performance but, as he was the only one to bid the project, they’d been working with him in various ways to make the contract work.

But the storm has added tremendous difficulty to the job.

Debris lies in the path of the mowers all across the county. Some roads, especially the edges, have been damaged in the debris removal process as big heavy trucks pulled onto and off of the roadways to gather and move those materials. And that job is not yet complete. The “last pass” is still underway.

Meanwhile, the mowing contractor has had some damage to and malfunction of his machines, some of it as a result of what they’ve encountered in fulfilling the contract, and some of it unrelated to that job.

Jackson County Public Information Officer Kristie Cloud further explained some of the challenges in a press release this week, asking for the public’s understanding as the county goes forward in its effort to overcome the many post-storm challenges it faces in meeting the public’s needs.

“As recovery efforts continue in the months following Hurricane Michael, one issue that has been an ongoing challenge is the status of the mowing in the county,” Cloud stated. “For years, the county has maintained a contract for the mowing of the right of ways on county roads. The current contractor is facing obstacles that before now have been unheard of: limbs, trees and other debris in the right of way, shared space with the debris removal companies and the challenges of maintaining equipment that is frequently damaged by debris,” she continued.

She also pointed out that the contractor is making special effort to keep the county updated on his progress, so that commissioners, who have complained of having no good answers for callers who have complained about tall grass on the rights-of-way in their areas. “At a recent board of county commissioners meeting, the current contractor explained some of the challenges he and his crews have been facing and stated that he would send regular updates to the road and bridge department so that the board would have a better idea of real time mowing throughout the county,” Cloud’s release states.

Cloud also addressed the issue of damaged roads.

“Many of the roads throughout the county were damaged by the heavy debris removal trucks which were in the area for months following the storm,” she continued. “Long Term Recovery Coordinator Pamela Pichard is working with FEMA and the county’s disaster recovery consultant to explore options on ways to have the roads repaired. This will be a long process. There are approximately 900 miles of unpaved roads and 500 miles of paved roads in Jackson County.”

She continued then on the subject of mowing challenges and how the public can help on that front. “Although most of the power lines downed during the storm have been picked up and removed, some lines (power, phone or cable) may still be in the right of way in areas throughout the county. If you see cables, please contact your local power provider, phone provider, or cable provider to let them know,” she advised.

On a final note, Cloud offered reassurance that the county continues to work carefully on a myriad of storm-related issues, approaching them in a way that is expected to help the local government avoid as much expense to the county and its taxpayers as possible.

“County staff continue to work diligently to address as many of the needs of the citizens of Jackson County as possible,” she stated. “To date, the county has received $1.3 million dollars in FEMA funds, which have been used to cover expenses related to the storm. The county is anticipating the receipt of additional FEMA reimbursement funds as projects are completed.”

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