City changes demolition rules after confusion over FPL implosion

Companies required to notify residents, media 10 days before scheduled blasts

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - City leaders are changing the rules on getting the word out about major demolition projects in response to the fallout over a planned power plant implosion that took many residents and first responders by surprise.

Under the new rule, which one official characterized as “common sense,” companies will be required to give residents and media at least 10 days’ notice of any scheduled blasts to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s confusion.

Jacksonville’s dispatch center and newsrooms were flooded Saturday morning with phone calls from startled residents after a contractor hired by Florida Power & Light imploded three stacks at the Cedar Bay Power Plant on the Northside.

In the days that followed, the News4Jax I-TEAM uncovered a paper trail showing leaders from four city agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office and fire department, knew about the implosion days in advance, but didn’t spread the word about it.

"I am very pleased with how quickly the city officials agreed to adding this requirement to the permit applications before they are approved," City Councilman and former mayor Tommy Hazouri told News4Jax.

Emails show a representative for the contractor, DEMCO, Inc., gave the fire department a heads up July 31 about the permitted implosion. District Chief Allen Mason then forwarded that notice to JSO’s Special Events division.

For whatever reason, that message did not make it to JSO’s communications or public information staff. As a result, fire crews and police raced to the Northside plant after getting waves of 911 calls from residents shaken up by the blast.

It remains unclear whether any local media were contacted. A spokesperson for FP&L she notified newsrooms by phone Aug. 3, a day before the implosion. But News4Jax has not been able to independently confirm that.

Moving forward, representatives for JSO’s bomb squad, JFRD’s fire prevention division, the Office of Risk Management, and the General Counsel’s Office still must sign off on any demolitions, but now the public will have more notice.

"It is good, transparent public policy, and I am proud of the city’s immediate response to adding this requirement," Hazouri said.

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