North Florida counties who have spent millions of dollars cleaning up BP's mess have a message for the giant oil company.
They're fed up with the slow claims process, and they want reimbursed now.
That was the main message today as the Florida Association of Counties continued its annual conference in downtown Tampa.
Representatives of county governments from the affected Panhandle counties and other officials gave an earful to a BP official attending the conference.
They told of delays in getting skimmers and workers to clean up the oil. They talked of dwindling cash reserves amid tough economic times to take care of a problem that wasn't their doing.
Lisa Marshall, representing U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, asked when county governments were going to see checks for the $9 million they have spent so far to fight the spill.
Ray Dempsey, representing the company responsible for the spill, listened and promised that money would be coming soon.
Marshall, who said Nelson met with a BP executive the other day and heard similar promises, was not impressed.
"We've heard this for three weeks now,'' she said.
Dempsey said one check should be on its way to Escambia County, which has endured the brunt of the oil invasion in Florida. He said other checks would be en route to other counties by the end of next week.
"I don't expect you to get excited about that or even believe me,'' Dempsey said, acknowledging that BP hasn't done the best job at reimbursing government agencies. If no checks start to show up, the BP official said, "they should come find me and spank me in the head.''
Officials across North Florida have grown increasingly frustrated at the ever-increasing costs of the spill.
"BP has spent a lot of time on claims for individuals and businesses, but for local government it is much more cumbersome and much more fluid,'' said Cragin Mosteller, spokeswoman for the association of counties. "Local governments are confused about where to go and what to do. There is massive frustration.''
Earlier this week, state Sen. Don Gaetz, a Republican from the Panhandle, said that Escambia County had spent nearly $4 million, and had not received "one penny'' from BP.
In Okaloosa County, the tab was at more than $1 million, and the county's reserves for all purposes sits at just $6 million.
"The burn rate of local government cash is hot and huge,'' Gaetz said. "And there is not much cash there.''