Naples has come a long way since Hurricane Ian.
While much progress has been made on the recovery front, much remains to be done and it will take time and patience.
That's one of the key messages City Manager Jay Boodheshwar delivered at a City Council workshop on Friday.
In an update to Ian, he shared information on everything from the status of debris clearance to the status of plans to rebuild the iconic Naples Pier.
While the city has provided bi-weekly updates to the community via email and posts on its website, Boodheshwar has not shared any personally with the city council or the public for a long time. He was busy.
His detailed presentation included an update on damage to buildings in the city: 1,937 suffered minor damage, 708 suffered major damage and 22 were destroyed.
As of January 18, the city had issued or applied for 1,119 Ian-related permits. Among them were 97 demolition permits, 94 of them for single-family houses.
While the number of demolition permits may seem startling to some, Boodheshwar said it wasn't as much as feared and "could have been a lot worse" considering the severity of flooding in Naples due to Ian's record storm surge.
Ian, he said, will require "a massive restoration effort".
"We're going to be a pretty big construction site for a while," Boodheshwar said.
Earlier:Damage to buildings, homes and businesses in Naples estimated at over $1.5 billion
More:How is the season going in Southwest Florida? Different experiences according to Ian
City property damage estimates have continued to rise, with more than 300 public assets now classified as damaged or destroyed. Estimates now exceed $26 million.
This includes structures, vehicles and equipment affected by the storm, but not the cost of strengthening the pier or repairing or replacing the seawalls, so the financial cost to the city will be much higher, potentially more than $30 million US dollars, Boodheshwar said.
Rebuilding the dock bigger and better will cost more than getting it to pre-Ian condition. Early estimates are around $15 to $16 million.
"The good news is that we are financially healthy," said Boodheshwar.
The city has cash reserves but also expects significant dollars from FEMA and its insurers to help with recovery and rebuilding.
The city is almost devoid of Ian's debris.
When it comes to removing rubble, the city is “99.9% within reach”.
Around town, clean-up crews collected 303,000 cubic yards of debris from Ian, or more than 5,800 truckloads. This included 201,000 cubic yards of construction and demolition materials, from drywall and cabinets to furniture and clothing.
"The focus now is on the waterways," said Boodheshwar. "The state takes the initiative."
Working with the state and Collier County, the city has believed to have identified all of the vehicles that Ian sank in its waterways, including cars and boats. The removal has begun, but there's no timeline yet on how long it might take to complete the job.
"Of course there are other types of debris in the water," Boodheshwar said. "Some are known and many are unknown."
Since Ian's strike, the city has put a lot of time and effort into reopening its beach accesses, with safety as a top priority.
Boodheshwar provided a list of 16 that have already reopened and a list of others that will open soon. The next locations to open are:
- Park Niedermilch
- First Avenue South
- Fourth Avenue South
- Sixth Avenue South
- Seventh Avenue South
- Buy Avenue Süd
- South 11th Avenue
The aim is for all to be open by the end of this week.
While Lowdermilk Park has taken a beating and it will take time to rebuild and repair the structures, Boodheshwar said the city is keen to open it because it "can accommodate a lot of cars" which will help to reduce the stress of other beach parking lots . areas in the city.
Access to Eighth Avenue, he said, was another big focus because it's such a popular spot for wedding ceremonies in the city, earning it the nickname "Wedding Beach." Once reopened, the city will resume issuing permits for beach weddings, but only at this location for now.
"The primary motivation for the decisions we make is to ensure the people we serve are safe," Boodheshwar said.
Though beaches have been raked many times since the storm, he still recommends bathers wear shoes "because we don't know what we can't see."
"From time to time we see new debris," he said.
The road ends at the beach need to be rehabilitated
Nine beach ends or coastal road ends suffered significant structural damage to the tarmac, leaving them closed for the foreseeable future.
"We can't have cars on the streets. The roads have been undermined,” said Boodheshwar.
Diese Enden des Strandes befinden sich an: Vía Miramar, Third Avenue South, Sixth Avenue South, Ninth Avenue South, Avenida 10 Sur, Avenida 15 Sur, Avenida 16 Sur, Avenida 17 Sur and Avenida 33 Sur.
The city plans to hire a consultant to assess the extent of the damage and any repairs needed to restore it to its pre-Ian condition, "if not better," Boodheshwar said. The process, he said, will take time to ensure the city is staying on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's playbook so that federal funding for reconstruction is not jeopardized.
Discussed the implications of Collier County's plans to build an emergency berm, or sand dune of sorts, on beaches across the county as a temporary measure to protect upland properties from the next major storm until the beaches can be restored. There is a small window of opportunity to avoid turtle nesting season and secure FEMA funding at an estimated cost of more than $20 million.
Four beach access locations were chosen to accommodate sand trucks in the city: Lowdermilk, Horizon Way, 10th Avenue South, and 17th Avenue South.
The county expects to hire a contractor in mid to late February and anticipates the project will take 12 weeks to complete.
The city will release a map of truck routes so the public can know what to expect, Boodheshwar said, warning the project will be large and "invasive".
The Naples Pier will take "some time" to be rebuilt
Referring to the Naples pier, the city manager stressed that he really had to "set expectations".
While part of the pier is open, it will take "some time" to rebuild, with the need to once again follow the FEMA playbook lest the city lose millions of dollars in FEMA funding, including money for "mitigation." ' said Boodheshwar.
"And by mitigation we mean elevation and a more stable structure that can withstand the next Ian or something," he said.
The city is seeking architects and engineers to design the new pier and hopes to have a contractor selected and ready before the design is complete.
It's important to move to the city and county as soon as possible, not only because of the pier's sentimental value, but also because of its economic value as a popular tourist attraction, Boodheshwar said.
Obtaining permits for the new pier will take time, but the city hopes state leaders can help speed it up as talks are underway, he said.
Community input is sought in the design.
"We'll get feedback," Boodheshwar said. "We are already receiving unsolicited comments."
An unsolicited suggestion: put coin slides at the end of the pier "to make some money".
"I like creativity," said Boodheshwar.
Construction is not expected to begin until this year at the earliest.
He ended his presentation by discussing plans to develop a follow-up report to show the city's successes and failures in dealing with Ian.
The ultimate goal is "improving future performance".
Results of a community survey on the city's response to the storm are included in the report.
After more than 600 residents and businesses submitted their comments, Boodheshwar described the turnout as "enormous". Heopinion pollends today.
Boodheshwar was eager to hear the replies, saying he had already looked at some of them and they were "very constructive" and "very helpful".