Archive for the 'Jefferson' Category

What’s in the news for da parishes 7/25/07?

July 25, 2007

SBA ERRORS from The New York TimesAgency Erred in Canceling Loans to 8,000 Along Gulf, Audit Finds, By RON NIXON

“We all wanted to see the loans processed and disbursed more quickly and the red tape removed,” said Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the committee. “Unfortunately, even with good intentions, some disaster victims are still being left behind, and that’s not acceptable.”

More NYT Katrina

National Geographic on New Orleans(Link Courtesy of –The Mosquito Coast)August National Geographic

The National Geographic seems to educate the masses, however, their lack of some information concerning New Orleans is evident. Louisiana State Text books from the 1950’s put New Orleans above sea level, whereas, current studies (last 20+ years) have technologically advanced systems like GIS that have assisted in determining issues of both Coastal Erosion and “sinking”.

Legislator resigns seat for DOTD post
By MARSHA SHULER
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: Jul 25, 2007 – Page: 18A

“State Rep. Roy Quezaire, D-Donaldsonville, resigned his House seat to take an $86,500-a-year job with the state’s transportation agency…

…House Clerk Butch Speer said no election would be called to fill the remainder of Quezaire’s term, which ends in January.

Under state law, Salter must call an election if there is more than six months left in a term. But he has discretion if there’s less than six months remaining.

Qualifying for the regular election opens in September. Quezaire’s House District 58 includes parts of Ascension, Assumption, Iberville, St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes.

Quezaire said his experience in the legislative arena on transportation issues makes him “absolutely” qualified for the new job…”

Maybe Quezaire can assist with transportation issues from the inside the DOTD that face the areas he formerly represented. I wonder if he catches a bus to work…I doubt it. LA SWIFT says it make intermediate stops in St. James, however, there is nothing to indicate from St. James Parish where these stops are located (from on-line sources.) Most of the issues found over the web concern the tourist industry in the parish.

RTA plans to pick up new buses
Fleet to get smaller and more efficient

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Frank Donze

… “We’re losing riders,” said Commissioner Barbara Major. “My friends have taken to their bicycles because they can’t depend on the buses. It’s awful. It’s been two years. If we can’t get them a decent bus, we’ve failed.”

More than half of the RTA’s 350 buses were wiped out by flooding, and most of the vehicles that survived Katrina are nearing the end of their 12-year life expectancy. As a result, the agency has been forced to use a patchwork fleet of its own run-down buses and castoffs from other transit systems. ”

Two years later...

St. Charles staff plans shelter role
If evacuated, they would help Avoyelles

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Matt Scallan

Canal eroding, but still safe, corps says
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Sheila Grissett

“…A high-ranking official in the corps’ hurricane protection office said Tuesday that three district engineers doing a detailed walking inspection of the floodwalls and water-side canal banks after Hurricane Katrina saw erosion in the area, photographed it and included it in a “trip report” that should have been passed along to the East Jefferson Levee District for action.

“This scour was noted right after the storm,” said John Grieshaber, executive support chief in the Hurricane Protection Office.

“We would normally consider it (scour) a maintenance issue . . . and show it to the appropriate” levee district, he said.

Report not received

But Fran Campbell, executive director of both the East Jefferson Levee District and the regional levee authority, said no one from the corps gave her the report or told her about the erosion. ..”

…A section of the east floodwall breached during Katrina…”

Someone should be fired for that…

Marsh Maneuvers’ Teaches 4-H’ers About Coastal Environment
Tom Hess

Students at Marsh Maneuvers listen to Tom Hess, at left, talk about coastal erosion at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. Hess, a biologist for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, told the students that several erosion control methods will be tested at the refuge.

Scotsman.com Living, High and Dry by: SHAILA DEWAN

“THIS was not how Cindy Cole pictured her life at 26: living in a caravan park wedged amid the refineries and cane fields of tiny St James Parish, 18 miles from the nearest supermarket, and sustaining three small children on nothing but food stamps, with no playground, no security and nowhere to go.

Rather than being here at Sugar Hill, Cole was supposed to be paying 275 a month for a two-bedroom house in New Orleans – next door to her mother, across the road from her aunt, with a child-care network that extended the length and breadth of her large family. With her house destroyed and no job or savings, however, her chances of recreating that old reality are slim.

For thousands of evacuees like Cole, going home to New Orleans has become a vague and receding dream. Living in bleak circumstances, they cannot afford to go back, or have nothing to go back to. In the two years since Hurricane Katrina hit, the shock of evacuation has hardened into the grim limbo of exile…”

“…Hardly any of the 77,000 rental units destroyed in New Orleans have been rebuilt, in fact, and the local and federal governments have done almost nothing to make it possible for low-income renters like Cole to return. Because she was never a homeowner, she is not eligible for a federally funded Road Home grant to rebuild her house, destroyed in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters along with the rest of her neighbourhood…”

“…IN MANY ways, evacuees have become the region’s new pariahs, shunned by towns and parishes, who have erected a series of legal barriers to keep them out. At least five jurisdictions in Louisiana and neighbouring Mississippi – St Bernard Parish, St John the Baptist Parish, Jefferson Parish (all of which are in Louisiana), Pascagoula and Ocean Springs (both in Mississippi) – have begun revoking permits for trailers or allowing their zoning exemptions to expire. Those moves affect families still living in some 7,400 trailers across the Gulf Coast, according to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, a group based in Washington that has sued to stop the evictions…”

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights was founded to fight racial discrimination. Katrina didn’t discriminate…

“There are severe racial overtones to these actions. There’s all this concern that black and low-income people will be coming into your neighbourhood.” – Joe Rich, project director.

The Committee’s major objective is to use the skills and resources of the bar to obtain equal opportunity for minorities by addressing factors that contribute to racial justice and economic opportunity.

“…In Jefferson Parish, a suburb just west of New Orleans, officials blocked a 200-unit complex for the elderly, citing concerns that it would increase crime, and are fighting the construction of a second similar complex nearby.

“Some people just lack any degree of civilisation,” insists Chris Roberts, a Jefferson Parish councillor who has fought to remove Fema trailers and block subsidised housing developments. “I think low-income housing which is not properly run invites those people.” He complains that such residents are often idle, but many evacuees have burdens that prevent them from working…”

Like lack of transportation services….Day care….Adult day care… Home Health care… Health care…Phone service…etc, typical low income issues city, town, parish, and state officials ignore continuously. And therefore, the “persistent poverty issues in Louisiana continue.”

I finally did find transportation at the St. James website. And Jefferson Parish transit info can be found here. St. Charles lists a “demand responsive” transit from the Council on Aging also used by the general public. This means you have to call first, usually. The fees are outrageous.

LA DOTD website I cannot see the links clearly on my puter… the website mouse over links are icky. Here’s the rural link.

Transportation in rural areas of Louisiana demands improvement.

Iberia Parish President Quits

The Daily Iberian – 25 July 2:10PM

“NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) — Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais agreed to resign Wednesday to avoid prosecution on charges that he used public funds to do work on private property and pressured parish employees to help in political fundraising.

At a court hearing, Langlinais also pleaded no contest to malfeasance in office and agreed to pay $50,000 in restitution. Sentencing was scheduled Aug. 2…”

How fast can you hand-wheel out of the path of a 450mi wide issue?

July 24, 2007

Advocates decry lack of housing in New Orleans
High rents undermine aid extension, they say

“…HUD spokeswoman Donna White said 377 apartments are available, mostly at the Iberville complex. She said another 400 are being rehabilitated and should be available soon. Opening the doors to renters has been slow because the Housing Authority of New Orleans is required first to contact the former apartment residents to see whether they want to return…”

Of course, two years later most have HAD to MOVE on. FEMA rules indicate that if evacuees moved in with other family members they were not eligible for FEMA reimbursed housing assistance.

Poll: 1 in 3 would not evacuate for hurricane
Tuesday, July 24, 2007 1:50 AM EDT

“…Robert Blendon, the Harvard professor who directed the survey said he expected more people to say they would not evacuate after a mild 2006 Atlantic hurricane season.

“It just shows how people can become complacent if they’re not immediately threatened,” Blendon said.

In addition to finding that 31 percent of respondents would not evacuate, the study found another 5 percent said it would depend on the circumstances.

The poll was conducted by telephone and surveyed more than 5,000 people 18 or older in coastal areas in eight Southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. All respondents lived within 20 miles of their state’s coastline. The poll was conducted between June 18 and July 10…”

States other than Louisiana and Mississippi during Katrina did not sustain a high number of fatalities. I believe, Alabama, had between one to three fatalities from hurricane Katrina in only one county – Washington – and that was on the highway. Most of the fatalities in Louisiana were due to drowning . . . 60-70% were elderly or infirm.

EDITORIAL: Katrina’s lessons lost
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

“…Residents of hurricane-prone areas shouldn’t have forgotten the hard lessons of Katrina so soon, but a new survey shows that people have dangerously short memories.

The Harvard School of Public Health surveyed residents of eight states beginning last month and found that 31 percent would not leave this year if the order came to evacuate. That’s up from 23 percent last year. ..”

FEMA available for questions on formaldehyde
Published: Monday, July 23, 2007 6:35 PM CDT

This site has the ability to post comments in addition to providing the 1-800# to call for questions.

Defense wants attorney general’s recusal in Hurricane Katrina nursing home deaths case
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer- ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP)

“…A couple charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of 35 nursing home residents after Hurricane Katrina said Monday that they want the attorney general barred from prosecuting the case, citing a conflict of interest.

Defense counsel for Salvador and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita’s nursing home, are expected to use evidence of alleged negligence against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Louisiana and the government of St. Bernard Parish at trial.

But Attorney General Charles Foti also has filed a $200 billion claim against the Corps, contending faulty levees caused floods that inundated the New Orleans area, including St. Bernard Parish…”

Now why didn’t I think of using the levees as an excuse for poor emergency evacuation planning? It seems that everyone else is blaming the levees instead of having personal responsibility for evacuations. A Plan, you know, would be prudent and essential. Now why or how this facilities plan fell apart has become a “levee” issue in the courts. Yes, the levees failed, however, the evacuation plan indicates ….hello? …an EVACUATION PRIOR to …the levee failure…the storm…a serious problem…a singular negligent homicide…encountering a 450 mi wide storm.

I hope someone who advocates for the elderly, nursing homes, and those who are defenseless is paying attention to this case. This is infuriating!

More LQ’s rant on this from Newsvine.

National Guard deployment raises questions over storm preparedness – 09:36 PM CDT on Monday, July 23, 2007
Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News Reporter

We can’t say thank you enough to the military for their response during hurricane Katrina!

What were the comments related to LQ’s recent poll?

July 21, 2007

 

 

 

 

 

Please read, join Live Journal  la_questions community, and respond to the poll!    Poll Results

 

Blueeyedgroupie from the Baton Rouge community asked what was my agenda for the poll. I really have not put my “agenda” to print and so I typed up some quick thoughts as to my reasons for the poll. I’m not accustomed to making references to “agenda’s”! It sounds way too political!

I really didn’t think about the question as being included in an “agenda”, but I did have a few thoughts and ideas surrounding the poll. First of all I’ve read more than enough posts concerning Hurricane Katrina where people are blaming those who lived in low lying areas in New Orleans for not evacuating prior to the storm. I don’t recall seeing Greyhound buses or New Orleans buses on the hurricane route where I used to live fleeing the storm. I don’t believe that public transportation was available outside of New Orleans for those who did not want to ride out the storm. The River Parishes from recent news reports, if accurate, have cited that they are looking into a NEW public transportation system for that area. St. James Parish was recently cited in the New York Times as the home of a women living in a FEMA trailer, a former resident of New Orleans, without access to a nearby grocery store or childcare or public transportation. The Major media outlets do not get the full story. They only skim the surface and it is more than frustrating. There was no public transportation available where I used to live, either. This could also apply to the election, as there is one candidate who is attempting to be supportive of ending poverty. Hopefully, he meant in the United States and not some foreign country; although, I recognize that we, in the US, are rich in comparatively with many other countries of the world. Recovering from Katrina has been difficult for homeowners, however, the renting communities of the Gulf States – Mississippi and Louisiana – were left out of the equation with regards to the Road Home, FEMA, and other programs. I believe that housing issues prior to Katrina have been exacerbated by a slow recovery process. That’s about it as far as an “agenda” is concerned. I believe the demographics prior to Katrina spell out the disaster most accurately and offer an opportunity for community leaders to focus on providing opportunities at improving the support systems vital to recovery for the populations most affected and least recognized – the poor. Improvements in public transportation, healthcare, and affordable housing should become a focus for community leaders in the recovery process, but it is all wishful thinking until it is acted upon! I suppose that this is the “agenda” that has formed the idea of creating a “poll”. It’s just one of those things in my head and won’t remove itself until I act upon it in one form or another.

Please join la_questions community and help make this a successful poll. Thanks! LQ – Louisiana Questions

LQ’s poll on MSNBC NEWS links to Blogger

MSNBC US NEWS – LQ’s Poll

http://www.linkedin.com/answers/government-non-profit/charity-non-profit/GOV_CNP/68601-13753877
LinkedIn Answers to Poll

http://community.livejournal.com/storykatrina/
comments –

http://community.livejournal.com/poor_planning/
comments – As was Mississippi, don’t forget. As with many things, we were constantly battling each other for the coveted spot of #1 of the poorest state in the US.

They only recently passed us in “most corrupt”. Hurrah?

http://community.livejournal.com/nola_photos/
comments – It’s still Bush’s fault.

http://community.livejournal.com/fema_trailer/
comments – Mississippi isnt much better and rental price gouging is running rampant. As a disabled woman I have very little hope of finding a place anytime soon.

http://community.livejournal.com/da_parish/

comments – I didn’t KNOW it, but I suspected it.

I knew that some Louisiana parishes were among the poorest areas of the US, but I didn’t know that over 1/2 of them were in “persistent poverty.”

http://community.livejournal.com/batonrouge/
comments – No, but I’d believe it.

Sorry to sound like an ass, but it’s “parishes”, not “parish’s”. Gotta watch that.

What’s your agenda behind posting this question?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Who is playing nice and who isn’t? The merry go round and round

July 17, 2007

You can blame FEMA, the State of Louisiana, and local governments and politicians, but that merry go round and round stops once and a while in the media. It’s too bad that all of those people can’t sing the clean up song like the St. Bernard Project.

“Clean up clean up everybody everywhere…Everyone does their fair share…” 

St. Bernard Project . org was featured on CNN last night.  God Bless both the homeowner and the couple who changed their lives to help others in St. Bernard Parish.  It was the only news CNN had to offer, unfortunately.

CNN – Cable’s Needless Notice
Anderson Cooper on CNN last night broadcast the criminals in New Orleans going free because of the justice system in New Orleans is backlogged or corrupt.  Cooper and his cohort barely skim the surface of the issues in New Orleans – No. Cooper and his cohort  don’t even touch the issues in New Orleans, but have burrowed into the “black hole” of journalism concerning real issues in New Orleans and Louisiana in the wake of Katrina.  The interviews with Jordan were, of course, fruitless.  I don’t know why I expect major media outlets to actually get to the meat of a story such as this one.  For one thing, I don’t think they know how. It is extremely disappointing considering the history of crime in New Orleans prior to Katrina.

 LQ’s comments on “Sometimes the cure is almost as bad as the disease” – From:  intellectualize.org  Jack Cluth

The federal muck and revolving door that local officials have to wade through in order to accomplish recovery gets a focus in this blog.  Intellectualize.org blames my President and the Federal Government. I disagree only to this extent.  Personally, I dealt with no less than 14 FEMA representatives, 5  different FEMA written responses, 3 FEMA contracted inspector, and several misplaced documents by FEMA.  This doesn’t count the web application that FEMA utilized to begin the whole process that crashed at least 10 times mid completion before the application spit out a FEMA ID number. Then I was sent no less than 5 different FEMA ID numbers due to the computer glitch.  By the first submission to FEMA, my local government had already failed. The local government’s right hand didn’t know what the left was doing and neither right nor left cooperated with the Governors’ office. It is ultimately up to the local politicians, leaders, and town councils in order to assist with the recovery process and from what news is available, outside of personal experiences and stories of recovery present on line, these local governments are all “what’s in it for me” and not the folks they were elected to represent before Katrina.  The little guy gets it again and Jack blames my Prez fruitlessly.  Issues in Louisiana are already the focus of several DOJ investigations and FBI investigations prior to Katrina – the numerous Federal Investigations have already been noted. Blaming my Prez gets you nowhere, it’s not his ultimate responsibility to clean up local politics and it’s local politicians responsiblity to FIND the issues pertaining to their constituents. “If it is to be … it’s up to me.”

Colorado AP reports a story on an elderly couple from Slidell.

Couple may lose home over $1.63 tax bill

posted by: 9 NEWS , Staff   Colorado 07/16/2007

Topix Comments on Couple may lose home over…

One commentor lambasts the uncaring local government. It’s a sadly familiar story.

FEMA red tape strangling local governments

Posted by Coleman Warner, Staff writer July 14, 2007 8:58PM

Categories: Breaking News

As Jefferson Parish still awaits millions of dollars in reimbursements for emergency-repair spending after Hurricane Katrina, its finance director, Gwen Bolotte, has grown increasingly weary of delivering the same records again and again to FEMA or state disaster recovery officials.

With money just now beginning to flow to bigger infrastructure repair projects, she blames a revolving door of FEMA officials and relentless document requests from the state. Send in two invoices under the same contract, and state monitors typically will demand a copy of the contract each time, Bolotte says.

“I would think there would be a permanent file; most auditors have a permanent file,” she said. “People are getting frustrated, having to produce the same paperwork.”

Bolotte is part of a large contingent of locals officials who are mired in what seems an endless slog as they try to land grants through FEMA’s Public Assistance program.

The so-called PA, unfamiliar to most citizens and perplexing even to many government officials seeking the money, is the top source of federal disaster funding to rebuild public infrastructure: schools, roads, sewer lines, hospitals and civic auditoriums, police and fire stations. The program also offers rebuilding money to certain private institutions, such as universities, that are deemed essential to civic life.

FEMA expects to spend a whopping $2.7 billion on repair and construction projects across south Louisiana, more than five times the city of New Orleans’ annual operating budget before Katrina hit. That doesn’t include billions of public assistance dollars directed to emergency purposes, such as overtime and debris removal.

The process of getting the money, however, has proceeded in slow motion, because of the program’s inherent complexity and because of a failure of local officials to master the bureaucratic labyrinth.

Of the $2.7 billion ultimately expected to be spent on “permanent” work, $2.1 billion, or 78 percent, had been reviewed and approved, or “obligated,” by FEMA as of June 28 — but just $532 million, or 20 percent, had been released by the state. State officials said the release of money is influenced in part by whether they believe an entity is ready to spend it.

As regional FEMA executive Jim Stark noted: “It is grant money with strings attached. There are t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted.”

The pace of reviews by FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness dictate how quickly the grant money flows. FEMA officials write and critique project worksheets before they obligate a grant, and then state officials conduct their own reviews — requiring extensive documentation from local officials — before they release money.

Moreover, the frequent need for an increase in the amount authorized for a project after locals demonstrate that FEMA’s initial estimates were too low requires a new round of FEMA and state reviews, consuming even more time.

Many local officials view the process as unwieldy and confusing, a drag on efforts to rebuild. Testifying before a U.S. Senate disaster recovery panel Tuesday, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that while he is seeing “positive movement in our relationship” with FEMA, law and procedural changes are needed to make it easier for local entities to land PA money.

While views differ on whether there is a need to change the Stafford Act, a federal law that guides disaster responses, state and FEMA officials running the PA program said they are working to streamline procedures while still guarding against abuses of the federal purse.

While the PA benefits don’t pay costs that are covered by insurance — and include penalties for entities that didn’t buy enough insurance — the program will, in theory, foot much of the bill for putting storm-ravaged infrastructure back together.

And, in a rarity for any government program, FEMA puts no cap on total spending, provided the storm damages are well-documented.

“As long as we can agree on scope of work, cost should not be an issue,” said Timothy Brunette, a trainer for FEMA officials handling PA projects.

But even generally grateful recipients moan over the tedious and confounding process of securing the money, from preparing the first worksheet to undergoing auditor reviews to completing the bricks-and-mortar work.

Reaching agreement with FEMA on the scope of work, as well as “reasonable cost” for a project in a post-disaster economy, can become a tug-of-war. Nor is it easy to assemble enough money to get a construction project going, since PA is set up as a reimbursement program, and many agencies — especially now — have little cash at their disposal for upfront costs.

Local agencies must furnish records covering everything from past maintenance to completion of bids for a repair, and, in an exercise familiar to citizens navigating recovery programs, they often have to furnish them more than once.

Those obstacles — along with varying directives from a rotating cast of FEMA project monitors — are cited by local officials as factors in the painfully slow release of PA money.

Just $23 million of $304 million FEMA expects to spend in two public school systems in New Orleans had been released as of June 21, for example, although $136 million had been obligated by FEMA, meaning the state can release it after its demands are met.

Also, PA-financed repairs to New Orleans streets, which could wind up costing hundreds of millions of dollars, are far from reality because the preparation of worksheet information by FEMA and the city is just now getting under way.

Weary of being a rhetorical punching bag, FEMA officials made it clear that the PA program depends on legwork by local agencies, which, even as they struggle with thin staffs, must assemble documents and help assess damages.

Federal administrators pointed out, for example, glaring weaknesses in construction planning by the Recovery School District and said Nagin’s public works department was months slow in preparing a list of streets that need to be repaired. They demanded the list by July 31.

Criticism of the school district led to a push by state Superintendent Paul Pastorek to ramp up work on damaged schools. Nagin’s public works director, Robert Mendoza, conceded that the city had done little to prepare the streets list, but he said that was largely because of a past dispute with FEMA about what sort of damage would be covered. Nevertheless, Mendoza said the July 31 deadline would be met.

At times, FEMA officials note, local officials who blame slow progress on state and federal bureaucrats have made glaring mistakes of their own in how they use the PA process.

Slidell’s finance director, Sharon Howes, noted recently that after the city landed — and spent — $569,000 for equipment and vehicles lost during Katrina, it faced a FEMA demand for documentation to justify the grant once again. The demand came when Slidell asked for a change in a Federal Emergency Management Agency “Project Worksheet” that would add $238,000 to the earlier grant.

“It’s almost like they’re trying to wear me down, so that I give up,” said Howes, who said she was given to feeling like a homeowner trying to settle an insurance claim.

But FEMA officials said a routine evaluation of how money was spent in the first part of a grant turned up a glaring problem: Slidell had taken monies provided to replace police vehicles with cars of a similar vintage and value and had used the funds to buy a smaller number of new, better-equipped police cars.

FEMA has a process for executing just that kind of transaction, but Slidell ran afoul of the rule. The city erred in not applying for an “alternate” use of grant proceeds, a process that would have meant a 25 percent cut in the size of the grant, FEMA spokesmen said.

Just what will be done about the mistake, and the request for more equipment money, is “under review,” the officials said.

FEMA officials say they can’t estimate how long it takes for a PA project to move through the system because they vary dramatically in size and complexity. But long waits for infrastructure repairs that clearly qualify for PA grants anger and befuddle residents who are slogging through their own rebuilding challenges and are counting on government to do its part.

Evy Assaf, a resident of Lakeview for 60 years, said she plans to contact the city’s Department of Public Works, which is just beginning to assemble a list of needed street repairs, to ask that it secure help for her street, Spencer Avenue, near the site of the 17th Street Canal floodwall break. The street is full of major holes, beyond the capabilities of the city’s celebrated Pothole Killer machines, and has a protruding manhole cover that threatens to rip out the underbelly of any car crossing it, she said.

The needs couldn’t be more obvious, Assaf says. How much longer before the work crews and heavy equipment show up?

“There certainly should be some kind of efficient policy in force to take care of some of these problems,” Assaf said during a break from cleaning windows and shoveling dirt at her home. “I really don’t know what the problem is, why there should be such a delay and such an inconvenience to people who are trying to come back.”

FEMA officials say they are working closely with local officials to smooth out rough points in the grant process, and that their efforts, guided by the nearly 20-year-old Stafford Act, face an epic test, with more than 600 workers assigned to the Louisiana mission.

The federal officials say they are trying to remove one key bottleneck in the quest for myriad repairs — thin staffing at the local level to handle paperwork and surveys — by explaining to the agencies how they can secure extra PA money for administrative costs.

Some local officials are, indeed, seeing traction in freeing up of PA grants, pointing to the influence of John Connolly, 49, an agency veteran who helped lead recovery operations at the Pentagon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A soft-spoken, casually dressed bureaucrat with an easy grasp of construction project minutiae, Connolly wants his division to squeeze the biggest impact from the PA pot, saying, “I’ve never seen the agency bend over so far to extend the maximum grant amount that we can.”

Connolly says FEMA will stick around in south Louisiana, for many years if necessary, to monitor rebuilding work, noting that the agency still keeps an office in Northridge, Calif., to handle issues from a 1994 earthquake.

New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board officials, who have sparred with FEMA almost since Katrina’s waters receded over how much of the utility’s badly damaged system should qualify for PA money, say FEMA representatives are becoming more helpful and pragmatic. In recent weeks, section chief Chris Colletti informed the board that FEMA had given up on trying to determine which pipe leaks were caused by Katrina and that the PA program will provide comprehensive repairs to the system, at least to the point of restoring its pre-storm capacity.

City officials celebrated the news.

“We’ve made more progress in the last 90 days than we had in the prior year,” said the board’s executive director, Marcia St. Martin. “We are cautiously optimistic.”

The water board has nearly 400 PA projects, many of them essential to quality of life, in the works. FEMA estimates that the program so far will provide $171 million for rebuilding needs. Of that, about $72 million, or 42 percent, has been released.

In the St. Tammany public school system, risk manager Kirt Gaspard, the district’s point man for PA requests, said there have been moments of indecisiveness on FEMA’s part because of turnover among project officers and times when the same documents have been requested more than once.

But he praised the efforts of FEMA and the state Office of Homeland Security in pushing rebuilding projects forward. He said they have been especially cooperative in the case of Salmen High School, which was ripped apart by an eight-foot storm surge, quickly allocating about $15 million to get a temporary campus open by August 2006. FEMA has tentatively approved spending more than $20 million on a permanent Salmen campus. Completion of architectural drawings is still months away.

“This is kind of a new scenario for FEMA as well because of the magnitude of destruction that Katrina caused, so you can expect they had a lot of new hurdles to overcome themselves, but overall we’ve done well in navigating the process,” Gaspard said.

A recent decision by Congress and President Bush to waive a requirement for a 10 percent local match for PA repair projects eliminated a key chokepoint, officials say.

While the Louisiana Recovery Authority previously had agreed to use Community Development Block Grant money to cover the required PA match, the dual funding sources and their differing rules created a paperwork nightmare and delays, LRA Executive Director Andy Kopplin said.

Congress has discussed revamping the Stafford Act, which governs FEMA assistance, to add flexibility and to give local FEMA officials greater leeway to cut through red tape, particularly in response to overwhelming disasters like Katrina and Rita. But that idea hasn’t gained momentum in a Congress restive about the spiraling costs of the Gulf Coast recovery.

Meanwhile, some would-be beneficiaries of PA grants fume about the slow delivery of help. Among them is Nicholas Felton, president of a union for New Orleans firefighters, who five months ago complained loudly about lack of progress in securing millions of dollars from FEMA for repairing uninhabitable firehouses that are plagued by sewage backups and rodents.

He still complains but can’t pinpoint exactly whom to blame. Many firefighters are still housed in trailers that aren’t safe in foul weather.

“We have not seen any movement, any money, from federal, state or local officials,” he said. “We have only been successful enough in repairing fire stations with generous donations from people around the city and country, and with firefighters putting in the work. I wish I knew where it (rebuilding money) is so that we could go tell folks to let it loose.”

Officials in Nagin’s administration who handle PA paperwork, including Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Sylvain-Lear, say little, “other than they’re working on it, and they’re trying to get it. But it’s been almost two years and we haven’t gotten anything,” Felton said.

Sylvain-Lear couldn’t offer a timeline for fire station repairs. She blamed the lack of progress on a broader problem: Project Worksheets prepared by FEMA that estimate repair or rebuilding costs using figures that are far too low, forcing the city to ask for an amended Worksheet. Without the use of higher figures, the city is forced to find money elsewhere in its budget to fill the gap, she said.

While FEMA officials are willing to change worksheets repeatedly when given evidence that their cost estimates are too low, delays caused by those negotiations pose a big problem for local agencies, Kopplin said. State officials are urging FEMA to develop a policy, he said, that would allow a PA recipient to borrow against other approved projects to cover temporary funding gaps of the sort described by Sylvain-Lear.

In St. Bernard Parish, officials rail about the lack of upfront money for PA projects that they say makes it difficult, if not impossible, to advance major restoration projects. Such projects include rebuilding the parish’s sewer system and repairing St. Bernard’s civic center and government complex in Chalmette. Ironically, the last two projects, expected to cost more than $3 million combined, were cited by FEMA officials among 20 south Louisiana projects that will show a positive PA impact.

Unlike some local parishes, St. Bernard has little flexibility in its budget to cover early costs of a construction project while waiting for a FEMA reimbursement, and many contractors won’t bid if they aren’t sure when they will be paid, said Joey DiFatta, chairman of the parish council.

“We need federal help up front rather than on the back end,” DiFatta said. “How the hell do you spend it if you don’t have it?”

FEMA officials say that while PA offerings are labeled reimbursements, federal law allows advances on the money. But the state decides the details of when and how to front money.

Mark Debosier, disaster recovery chief for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, said DiFatta is misinformed if he thinks construction advances aren’t available. The state has a policy of advancing, when asked, up to 75 percent of the cost of a project, in increments that can be spent in a timely fashion.

“I don’t know that St. Bernard has ever even asked,” he said. “It’s primarily a reimbursement program, but there are provisions for advances.”

The state’s offer of 10 percent of FEMA-estimated project expenses for design and engineering is well-known. But Debosier said there has been limited use of other construction advances. He suggested that many agencies don’t apply for them because they haven’t figured out how to pay the portion of costs not covered by the PA grant.

The LRA’s Kopplin said the state hasn’t promoted use of construction advances until recently. To be sure, Slidell’s finance director said she had not heard about the availability of construction advances. And Tommy Couvillion, district manager of Associated General Contractors, said many companies that have landed PA-related work, most of it through the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, reluctantly agreed to extend themselves, not sure when FEMA reimbursements would arrive.

“They’re being good corporate citizens, trying to help the city get back on its feet. If you can’t treat the sewage, and you don’t have potable water, we’re all dead in the water,” Couvillion said. “The unknown is always fraught with anxiety, you know? You’re betting the payments are going to come sooner (rather) than later. You’re hoping, and you keep the fingers crossed.”

Coleman Warner can be reached at cwarner@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3311.

COMMENTS (9)Post a comment

Posted by xfire on 07/14/07 at 9:54PM

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SAY “FEME” RED TAPE IS STRANGLING THEM ————-
Now thats pure amazement…….and it’s only taken them 23 months to come to this concludion…….anyone could have known this just by talking to anyone who had to deal with FEMA……

Posted by skydaddy on 07/14/07 at 10:25PM

Just wait until we get government run health insurance coverage that all these idiot main stream media types are trying to convince us that we need. What would anything to do with the government be like if they didn’t have red tape?

Posted by xfire on 07/15/07 at 1:22AM

SNAKE24:
You had me right up to “Obama and Clinton”….You must be kidding…..

Posted by nolano on 07/15/07 at 6:11AM

now imagine “the folks down city hall way” trying to deal with getting anything correct, folks, looks like we will all be needing 4 wheelers soon to “drive” our streets, I heard it took 3 hours ever day just to get meal orders correct for the connected “lunch crowd”, I b having a shrimpss on bum ,no mayo, but lots of hot stuff and plenty dem pickels , oh budda aslo, i b tankin u

Posted by mdsolutions on 07/15/07 at 6:26AM

Its not FEMA as much as it is the State and Louisiana politics. FEMA passes money to the state and the state has a machine in place that is highly inefficient and primitive. Why? If the state machine can make the processes obnoxious enough so that most normal individuals will avoid bidding – then the friends of the state will use their contacts to cut special deals for each other and receive the high awards.

That is just how Louisiana works. It is well rehearsed and the standard operating procedure. Accept it.

How to get involved? It costs money.

How to stop it? Impossible. The state runs on these relationships.

Posted by deadbeat007 on 07/15/07 at 8:15AM

The Department of Defence has managed to spend over 440 billion dollars in Iraq over the past 4 1/2 years, maybe they ought to take over that part of FEMA’s function.

Posted by powerpakt on 07/15/07 at 8:56AM

HAS ANYONE HEARD OF THE 12.5 MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF ICE THAT IS SIMPLY GOING TO BE ALLOWED TO MELT, RATHER THAN GIVE OR SELL FOR LESS AT ONES OWN RISK? IT WAS SENT TO NOLA AFTER KATRINA, BUT BECAUSE OF UNCERTAINTY OF ITS SAFETY AND STORAGE COST, THEY HAVE CHOSEN TO “LET IT MELT” UN-BLANKIN-BELIEVEABLE

Posted by vidicon on 07/15/07 at 11:10AM

I tired of hearing local and state government blaming everything on FEMA. Obviously the TP interviewed cry babies from Jefferson Parish,these people would not last one week in a real job. I dealt with both Fema, SBA and very graceful for their help for both personal and business.State Government is a joke! The largest budget in history and real problem were not address ex: Homeowners and commercial ins., hurricane protection, health care in targeted areas.

Posted by russian on 07/15/07 at 5:19PM

I understand that people cannot wait and patience. That is very real slow progress of rebuilding take longtime for 25 years They could not take a day or a week for rebuilding. They are not sure, because hurricane could hit in Gulf Coast again. That is why Governor Blanco hold $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

Let me explain you that it will have an other major hurricane in 2009. Betsy-Katrina hit in Gulf Coast (1965 -2005) for 40 years. Camille-????? will hit in Gulf Coast (1969-2009) for 40 years. I hope not.. God Bless……….

I have my comments for you. I lost my everything in Eastern New Orleans. If I am elect Mayor or Governor I would like to demand in Eastern N.O. closed for good. I am very curious that what is your opinion comments.

 

ALERT!: Public Transit Emergency Info Questions – ALERT!

July 16, 2007

NOLA.com after initial review of its hurricane center website makes no reference to the Emergency.louisiana.gov website in addition to its references exclusively to NOAA. NOAA recently forecasted a storm on the wrong day according to one blogger. No one is perfect, however, and one system should not be depended upon alone for information.

In addition to this lack of information proliferation on the web the Emergency .louisiana.gov website lists the transportation link towards the bottom of their page where after clicking to access the LA DOTD the quick link to Emergency info is unavailable and non-responsive. This is going to require more follow through!
And along with follow through, you would think that the link to “Evacuations” from the Emergency.louisiana.gov would include public transportation information. It does NOT.

Louisiana Evacuation Map

This map does not indicate the local roads available in the different parish’s, which may be vital when attempting to locate shelter information. There are many shelters utilized en route that require local road map information. The Emergency.louisiana.gov website lists stopping points where shelter information will be available during an emergency. It is unclear from the state evacuation map where the local roads play a role in evacuation planning. Common snese and experience tells us that local roads can be hazardous as they are often lined with timber and gas stations infrequent or undersupplied.

River Parishes ready for new transit system
Pre-owned bus option may speed process
Sunday, July 15, 2007
By Victoria St. Martin

I searched for info on the transit systems available in the different parish’s, but St. Tammany Parish was the only one mentioned to have a contact phone number. The following article did not indicate, upon initial review, other numbers to call for evacuation or sign up for evacuation in the event of an emergency. The article was not dated but cited May? 2006 or 2007? as the last time anyone called St. Tammany for evacuation sign up.

Buses to evacuate any who can’t drive away
But leave on your own if you can

By Meghan Gordon
West Bank bureau

Emergency. la.gov did not mention public transportation in the event of an emergency evacuation, either. I’ll have to further review the public transportation web site. It was already clear that the CPTC transit from Baton Rouge did not have any available information concerning evacuations. New Orleans stated, humph, that it would assist other parish’s in evacuations. I can’t depend on the New Orleans Parish transportation system if I live in one of the River Parish’s. Both the New Orleans transit system and the Baton Rouge transit system require more information and investigation.A simple search at the Emergency.la.gov site did not immediately reveal public transportation evacuation information utilizing “public transportation” or the phrase “transportation” on 07/16/2007. There is a link towards the bottom under Agency Links for the LA DOTD that as I mentioned earlier offeres a “quick link” to emergency info BUT IS A DEAD LINK.

The links to the New Orleans RTA indicate that citizens are to call 311 to sign up for evacuation – only after they take a survey. The jpg image mentioned 800 numbers to call “at the rear end of this brochure” that are not available at the website. The jpg should be in PDF form for ease of reading, especially due to the map present. it cannot be viewed on my computer. I have 20/20 vision, folks. The map is way too small. In June, at the beginning of hurricane season, this website (Emergency.louisiana.gov) was unavailable for several days. Information from CATS concerning evacuation (Baton Rouge) was unavailable. I did not recall reviewing the New Orleans RTA website on June 1, nor do I recall links from CATS to the New Orleans RTA.

Neither CATS nor Jefferson Parish Transit had evacuation information for the public on their websites 07/16/2007.

LA SWIFT

Where can I get more information?
Call the LA Swift information line toll-free at 1-877-94-SWIFT (1-877-947-9438). If you have already called the information line but still need more assistance, call the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development toll-free at 1-877-4LADOTD (1-877-452-3683).

BRCATS

info@brcats.com

Jefferson Transit

Contacts

Administration Office: (504) 364-3450

JeT contact form by web

RTA New Orleans

RTA Contact Information

Telephone :
Paratransit : 504-827-7433

  • Route and Schedule Information
    Please direct all route and schedule information requests to:
    Rideline
    Hours : M-F 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
    Telephone :504-248-3900
    Email : rideline@norta.com
  • General Manager :
    <!– Telephone : 225-929-8302 with voice mail
    Fax : 225-389-7706
    –> Email : mmajor@norta.com
  • Media Requests
    Please direct all media inquiries to:
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    Telephone : 504-908-3691; 225-929-8392
    Email : rcook@norta.com
  • Human Resources
    Please direct all employment questions and verification of employment to:
    Telephone: (225) 929-8378; (225) 929-8380; (225) 929-8403
    Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Streetcar and Bus Advertising–Exterior and Interior
    Please direct all inquiries to:
    Tim Fenasci, Clear Channel
    Telephone: Office-504-523-7105; Cell-504-915-8160
    Email: timfenasci@clearchannel.com
  • Useful Phone Numbers
    401K Benefits : 1-800-554-6513
    Orleans Parish OEP : 504-415-1158
    American Red Cross : 800-438-4636
  • LA DOTD email comments! Please help

    Welcome to the
    Louisiana Department of Transportation
    and
    Development
    Public Transportation Section
    Website

    The mission of the Public Transportation program is to improve public transit in all areas of the State so that Louisiana’s citizens may enjoy an adequate level of personal mobility regardless of geographical location, physical limitation or economic status.

    Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
    Public Transportation Section
    8900 Jimmy Wedell
    Baton Rouge, LA 70807
    Phone: (225) 274-4302
    Fax: (225) 274-4314

    PublicTransportation@dotd.la.gov

    <!–

    2006 Annual Transit Conference

    –>

    2002 Transit Provider Map