Thursday, May 04, 2017

FEMA Joplin High School documents- Where the hell did the money go?

From the beginning of the Joplin R-8 building projects following the tornado, former superintendent C. J. Huff made it clear the importance Joplin High School had to the community and that its rebuilding was the number one priority.

During a February 2012 meeting in the East Middle School library, Huff, appearing via Skype, explained the financing from the bond issue, the anticipated federal dollars from FEMA, and $7 million in state money that would be available through no-interest loans. (A podcast of that portion of the meeting is featured at the bottom of this post.)

From my book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud:

The one thing he could not bring himself to do, Huff said, was to make the project smaller than it needed to be. "If I were to do anything other than bring forth the projects we're proposing, I'd be doing a disservice to the kids and this community."

The most important project was the rebuilding of Joplin High School, Huff said. "It is the crown jewel of the district. The last thing I want to do is to cut a ribbon in 2014 on a high school that is too small."

Huff certainly did not do that.

As anyone who has been to the facility is aware, no expense was spared in the construction of the high school.

At closeout last year, R-8 officials submitted a reimbursement request to FEMA for $53,282,623.61.
That request did not go over well with FEMA officials according to a partial denial of funding dated January 20.

Out of the $53 million plus, FEMA agreed to pay only $7,321,042.99, a difference of nearly $46 million.

FEMA reimbursement is for approved costs that are needed above insurance proceeds. Therein lies the problem.

FEMA approved the combined JHS/Franklin Tech project on November 7, 2012.

At that point, FEMA capped the district reimbursement amount at $12,152,664.46, according to a memo obtained by the Turner Report through a Sunshine Law request.

That amount was further reduced to $6,588,141.65 after the insurance proceeds turned out to be more than anticipated.

On July 10, 2014, 19 months past the deadline for doing so, the district asked for a scope of work change (improvement), seeking an additional $27,862,323.12.

The request was rejected.

"The applicant originally requested the improved project with the understanding that the allowed costs were those of returning the facility to its pre-disaster design and not the costs incurred with the improvements."

Despite the rejection, at closeout time, the district asked to have all costs reimbursed by federal taxpayers, including "increasing the overall square footage from its pre-disaster size."

The documentation the district provided to FEMA did not differentiate between "the actual cost of completing the original scope of work from the cost to complete the improved project."

Besides, there was no chance of FEMA approving the additional square footage, according to the denial memo. "The issue of increased square footage for the high school is no longer an appealable action."

Earlier posts

FEMA documents: Joplin R-8 tornado recovery began with $3 million no-bid contract

FEMA documents show R-8 School District agreed to budget, then ignored it completely


Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing these numbers. Very sobering though. If I am reading this correctly, the R-8 originally fell short some 46 Million dollars by FEMA, and then attempted to cut the losses and get a smaller award of 27 million. With both failing, does this mean we owe 46 million?
Seriously, where will this money come from?

PS- I cannot help to see the irony of such an extreme conservative area asking for so much money from the Federal Government in what appears to border on fraud.

Randy said...

The $27 million was a school district request that was turned down by FEMA.

Anonymous said...

Do you know how this 27 Millions will be paid?

Randy said...

I don't. Since man of the contractors have to be paid as the services area provided, the district has probably been doing this through the money it has been borrowing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I know you take a lot of grief from the locals, but I cannot understand why anyone would not want to know some of the stories you provide, especially this. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Randy have you ever seen this info?

Page 10: here.

Page 10: here.

There is other information at both links.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that this is the first time I have ever seen a public entity pimp their own in-house PR program in a bond prospectus.

Anonymous said...

This revelation makes the "might as well spending" by Barr seem like fraud upon the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

The lack of interest to this story in very strange. For a town that has been carping about deficits at the federal level,(only for 8 years though, spending by Trump is cool now) you would think that they would be upset since they will be paying for this in the near future. What is worse, a wasteful federal government or people that willingly attempt to rip off the federal government? I never understood the outrage at the government for the $ 600.00 hammers, but never the people that accepted the $600.00 for the hammers.

Harvey Hutchinson said...

Somewhat similar to Hillary accepting $$250,000+ from Goldman Sachs for a 20 minute speech; and her simple-minded response:" Well that's what the offered me"
Too stupid to know she was bein compromised, and bribed; Yes, Anonymous 1:04 it takes two to Tango!