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Scott Orders Extra Crews To Aid Leon Power Effort; Gillum Faces Criticism Over Response

City of Tallahassee power outtages as of 9/4/16 6:50 p.m.
City of Tallahassee
City of Tallahassee
City of Tallahassee power outtages as of 9/4/16 6:50 p.m.

More than 33,000 Leon County homes remain without power on the third day following Hurricane Hermine. And some are growing increasingly frustrated with the restoration process. Now Governor Rick Scott has ordered additional teams to help the City of Tallahassee restore power, even as city officials try to tamp down on criticism.Update 9:13 p.m.: Associated Press Reporter Gary Fineout reports the press release sent from Gov. Rick Scott's office office saying city turned help is incorrect and due to "misunderstanding" between Leon County and the City of Tallahassee. Fineout reports it was the county that turned down the help, which was not supposed to happen. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has accepted assistance from private companies to aid in clean up.

.@FLGovScott office now says press release saying city turned help due to "misunderstanding" between @LeonCounty & @COTNews


Original Story: Governor Rick Scott says he "won't be satisfied" until power is fully restored in Tallahassee. He has asked private companies to assist in the removal of downed tree limbs and other debris from power lines. More than 60 roads in Leon County remain closed, days after Category 1 Hurricane Hermine made an almost direct hit on the area--striking just south of Leon near St. Marks.

"The residents of Tallahassee deserve nothing less than 100 percent power restoration. I asked Mayor Gillum to let me know today by 8:00 p.m. if the city will utilize these efforts so we can quickly deploy help to impacted areas," Scott said in a statement.

Earlier in the day the City of Tallahassee announced Gulf Power would be increasing the number of crews on the ground--adding an additional 150 people. There are already several different companies assisting in the restoration effort. In addition to Gulf Power, the city is accepting aid from the Kissimmee Utility Authority, Orlando Utility Commission, City of Thomasville Utilities, Lakeland Electric, Lafayette Utility System and the cities of Bartow and Jacksonville Beach.

But the pace of recovery remains unacceptably slow to many. There have been concerns voiced on social media about the retirement community of Westminster Oaks remaining dark, as well as the perception that some areas of town have been given preferential treatment over others.

Scott says the City of Tallahassee has "declined further cut-and-toss assistance from FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) to clear debris such as downed trees and fallen limbs." FDOT had been assisting in the effort. Scott has also said the city declined an offer of assistance from Florida Power & Light.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum responded Sunday evening to the criticism. In a post on his personal  about what help I have accepted or rejected on behalf of the City in our effort to recuperate from this storm. Some have suggested that I have refused help from any company that is not unionized. Others have stated that I have refused help offered by any Republicans. And still others have suggested a machiavellian attempt by me to surrender residents to my will by prolonging suffering and delaying any power from being restored - rendering them utterly helpless to my liberal agenda."

He goes on to say, "Our approach has been to accept every support that we need, when we need it. And the help that we don't need immediately, we put on hold until or unless we do need it. Coordination means everything in these kinds of recovery efforts. Too much help at one time may make us feel better, but it can actually slow down progress."

This comes at Duke Energy, which serves a large swath of Wakulla County and 34 others impacted by the storm, reports it had restored more than 220,000 customers by Sunday night. Tallahassee still had about than 30,000 in the dark at the time of this story. Following Hermine, 80 percent of the county was dark. That number has fallen to about 35 percent.

The City Commission has scheduled a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6 regarding Hurricane Hermine and the ongoing recovery efforts. The meeting is set to begin at 8:00 a.m. and is open to the public.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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