Plenty of people in the Florida Keys have opinions about how Monroe County handled the response to Hurricane Irma.
Starting Jan. 8, residents can deliver those opinions directly in a series of six public meetings along the island chain.
The idea is to hear what went well, what went badly and to get suggestions for the future, said Martin Senterfitt, Monroe’s director of emergency management.
“The community deserves the right to give their input on the quality of service they witnessed,” he said. “We always have to remember at the end of the day who we work for.”
Senterfitt said he’s expecting to hear a lot of feedback on a couple of issues.
“I don’t think anybody in this county’s been happy with the debris side of it,” he said. Almost four months after Irma crossed the Lower Keys as a Category 4 hurricane, debris piles still line parts of the Overseas Highway and county roads, especially in the Lower Keys.
On other issues, Senterfitt said he’s hoping to be able to answer people’s questions — and get their feedback on complicated issues like re-entry.
After Irma, the county allowed people who had left before the storm back onto the island chain in phases. Residents of the Lower Keys and Key West weren’t allowed back for a week, angering many who wanted to return and take care of their property.
“I think that’s probably going to be the most interesting discussion,” he said, adding that keeping out most of the residents allowed utilities to work more quickly to restore services.
“Where do you set the bar? I think we all understand conceptually that if you’re living in a house being remodeled, it’s much slower than if they can just get in and do the work,” Senterfitt said. “The sooner we let you in, the longer it’s going to take to get power restored. Are you willing to get in quicker if it means you’re going to have to wait three times longer for power to be restored?”
The meetings are all scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at the following locations:
Monday, Jan. 8: Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center, 102050 Overseas Highway, Key Largo.
Tuesday, Jan. 9: Founders Park Community Room, 87000 Overseas Highway (next to the pool), Islamorada
Wednesday, Jan. 10: Harvey Government Center, BOCC Room, 1200 Truman Avenue, Key West
Thursday, Jan. 11: Marathon Government Center, BOCC Room, 2798 Overseas Highway, Marathon
Monday, Jan. 15: Keys Community Church, 30300 Overseas Highway (in front of former Habitat ReStore), Big Pine Key
Monday, Jan. 22: Sugarloaf Fire Station, 17175 Overseas Highway, Sugarloaf Key