Officials Say Rumors that County Turned Away FHP Assistance Out of Greed, a “Misunderstanding”
HERNANDO – Four days after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on Florida residents, thousands are still struggling to survive without electricity, clean water, and even a safe place to live. Within hours of the Irma’s passing, convoys of utility bucket trucks, fuel tankers, and tractor-trailers made their way to communities, ravished by downed trees, power lines, and cluttered roadways.
In Hernando County, the Department of Public Works (DPW) joined utility companies, first responders, contractors, and civilians in clearing trees and debris, to begin restoring power to homes and businesses. But even in the midst of recovering from a natural disaster, rumors began to pour in that our county’s Public Works Department turned away assistance from the Florida Highway Patrol.
Over the last few days, RNRF received dozens of complaints from residents and several law enforcement officers – anonymously of course – claiming that DPW turned away dozens of Florida Highway Patrol Troopers from cutting away trees. One officer I spoke to by phone said that Troopers were either told to leave or in some cases sent on a “wild goose chase” to areas with no issues. “Troopers” we spoke to said they were told by DPW workers, “We don’t want you here – you’re cutting into our overtime.”RNRF immediately reached out to FHP officials who refused to go on the record but they did not deny the legitimacy of the incident.
I spoke to County Administrator Lyn Sossamon by phone, who said, “If I find out any of this is true there will be serious consequences.” He was fully aware of the “rumor” and was already investigating the validity of the claims.
County Officials released the following statement regarding the issue: “The Hernando County Office of Emergency Management has worked closely with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) for the duration of the Emergency Operations Center’s activation. Protocol must be followed to ensure the safety of our responders in the field. A misunderstanding occurred regarding recovery assignments that was quickly resolved, but unfortunately resulted in a rumor being spread on social media. We continue to work with FHP on disaster recovery efforts. Hernando County values our partnership with FHP and is thankful for their service to help restore our community.”
The Florida Highway Patrol is still actively working in Hernando County, as they are in all disaster areas across Florida.
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