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Hurricane Irma emergency contracts cost Florida millions, report says

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is defending actions he took after Hurricane Irma hit the state last year. An investigation by CBS Miami station WFOR-TV found that emergency contracts issued to companies for debris removal after the storm cost tens of millions of dollars more than the original contracts for the work.

"It's so frustrating that we had special interests decide not to do their job, so as governor I did the right thing," Scott told WFOR in an interview broadcast Sunday. "We stepped up. We helped our communities. We cleaned up U.S. 1. We got our state back to work."

According to a review of invoices conducted by WFOR, the emergency contracts cost at least $28 million more than pre-existing contracts for storm cleanup that were awarded by competitive bidding. Scott, who is running for the Republican nomination in a U.S. Senate race, told the station that he saved the state money.

"We saved taxpayers a lot of money," Scott said. "It's fascinating to me that these same special interests that try to make a buck by taking advantage of our state are now trying to get people to say that there was some other way to save money."

In the aftermath of the storm, the mayor of the county that includes the Florida Keys, which bore the brunt of Irma, raised concerns about the rates being paid under the emergency contracts.

Monroe County Mayor George Neugent raised his concerns on Sept. 27 at the county commission's first meeting after the storm, according to a video of the meeting obtained by WFOR.

"The state stepped in, and I guess they thought they were being helpful," Neugent, a Republican, said. "But if you talk about price gouging, based upon the contract that we have, the governor was actually doing the price gouging."

During the same meeting, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said that he tried to get the state to cancel the emergency contracts after he learned about them.

"We told the state, 'Stop it, we don't want to do that anymore,'" Gastesi said. "We've already said to Tallahassee, you know, we've got this. We have a contractor. You're disturbing our issues. Go away."