(WSVN) - Hours after Irma passed, many of us were out clearing trees and branches from our yard. One Miami-Dade man got a visit from the county to bring him a warning. His reaction? Call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
As Irma whipped through South Florida, Celso Perez and his family were like many of us…
Celso Perez, surprised by county: “Having winds up to 100 miles per hour and we were basically hunkered down in the closet scared to death.”
Monday morning, Irma had passed and it was clear. At 9 a.m., Celso and his neighbors went outside to get to work.
Celso Perez: “We had a lot of trees down in the street and the streets were blocked. We were out here, us and our neighbors, cutting the branches down and trying to open up the streets.”
Later Monday afternoon, as Celso was clearing the tree branches, a car pulled up from Miami-Dade County…
Celso Perez: “And we thought he was here to help us or offer some type of assistance with the trees, maybe he was going to bring us ice or something.”
The code enforcement guy did give Celso something…
Celso Perez: “He said he would have to cite me for having my fence down.”
This warning was slapped on the part of the fence still standing. Celso is a very calm guy. His reaction?
Celso Perez: “I laughed. I thought he was kidding. ‘You are kidding right? We just had a hurricane six hours ago.’ ‘No, I’m not kidding. I have to cite you for this.’ I just laughed. OK, whatever; knock yourself out!”
Celso was told he got the warning was because the fence Irma knocked over made it easy to access his pool and he needed to fix that.
Celso Perez: “Which I could not do that day because all the stores were closed. It’s not like I can go to Home Depot and find some temporary barrier.”
Celso said the code enforcement officer told him he would write up a report and be back to check on him.
Celso Perez: “And if my fence had not been put back up when he came back, he would have to write me a fine or fine me for that.”
Now Celso was really irritated.
Celso Perez: “At the time this officer was out here, we didn’t have power, we didn’t have food, we didn’t have ice. He is crazy, ridiculous. The mayor said that the county would help us recover from the storm and were there to help us. Before the county picks up the debris, the code enforcement guy will beat them to it and some for having my fence down, write me a ticket or something. I’m mad, very upset about this.”
Celso says he understands the fence needs to be put up, but…
Celso Perez: “Give us a minute to breathe. Let us get our power back on. And I wouldn’t mind if they told me that a few days down the line or due time but it bothers me that they came out here just a few hours after the storm had passed.”
Well Howard, does a government agency have to give residents a little time before they start going after them?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “This is outrageous. After Irma, people were stressed, they were worried and for a government official to slap a warning notice on them to add to their misery is insulting. Incredibly, it is legal but should Miami-Dade County be doing it? No. The timing was awful.”
I contacted Miami-Dade County and found out Celso was not alone.
After Irma, the county handed out 680 pool barrier safety notices and 177 electrical hazard safety notices to homeowners suffering damage from Irma.
The county stood by their decision to hand out these notices right after Irma.
A building official wrote, “The safety notice is neither a notice of violation warning nor a citation. It is important that we reach residents in the immediate aftermath of the storm, because that is when conditions are most dangerous, and taking steps to protect life is a critical part of the recovery process.”
A notice alerts the owner that there is a potential hazard present that they may not be aware of.
Celso Perez: “I want the public to know what the county is doing out there.”
Celso couldn’t get a company out to replace his fence yet and put this up … still stunned at what the county did.
Celso Perez: “Shame on Miami-Dade County for harassing the residents and not coming out here and helping us with the trees and do without power. Should have brought us ice not a citation for having a down fence.”
Days after this story aired, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez posted on Twitter, saying there will be no code enforcement for the next 30 days.
Should the county have been handing out notices right after the storm? The county thinks absolutely; they are helping to save lives. Celso says by hitting him with that after the storm, all they are doing is creating more stress and headaches for homeowners trying to clean up and rebuild. Whose side do you take?
Got a yard full of trees you don’t need to be warned is a mess. Wanna clear things up? Branch out and contact us. Irma’s gone but we will be here to help you with the problems she created. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser 7News.
Copyright 2020 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.