In a reply, Winterkamp pointed out the work had been necessary to make the grounds safe and rid the parking area of storm-related tree debris. He noted the work was performed not only to benefit the county but also FEMA. He provided proof that FEMA used the site as a Disaster Recovery Center to answer relief questions and distribute water and roof tarps.

Like Orange, other Florida counties and cities are tallying costs and compiling reports for FEMA in the wake of Irma, hoping to recoup millions spent on employees and debris contractors after the storm. Most are expecting the reimbursement timetable to span years, perhaps a decade — common for catastrophic storms that cause widespread damage and require expensive cleanups.

Hudak downplayed those concerns.

After hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne in 2004, Orange County official Fred Winterkamp led efforts to recover $85 million in storm-related costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He’s doing it again with Irma, which hammered the region Sept. 11.

Orange County didn’t get its last dollar from the 2004 hurricanes until 12 years later. Lake County is still appealing a FEMA denial related to tornadoes in 2007.

Stephen Hudak can be reached at 407-650-6361, shudak@orlandosentinel.com or on Twitter @Bearlando.

Since 2004, she said the agency has “looked to build efficiencies into the process to be faster and smarter, not hasty.”

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