Thursday, May 04, 2017
FEMA Joplin High School documents- Where the hell did the money go?
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."
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