Archive for the 'Nursing Home' Category

What is MRC?

August 31, 2008

Technical issues on LAVA August 31, 2008

From LAVA website, click register now, click Download Responder Guide comes up ZIPPO – return to front page register.

From May 2008 PDF on LAVA

https://www.lava.dhh.louisiana.gov/la/LAVA_May.pdf

MRC Units in Louisiana are community-based and function as a way to locally organize and utilize volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to emergencies and promotes healthy living throughout the year. MRC Units are provided specific areas to target that strengthen the public health infrastructure of their communities. Please help support your local MRC unit in strengthening the public health infrastructure in Louisiana by volunteering. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public health resources. MRC volunteers include medical and public health professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, and epidemiologists. Many community members-interpreters, chaplains, office workers, legal advisors, and others-can fill key support positions. As we approach hurricane season, please contact your
local MRC for additional information about how you can volunteer in your community.

Acadiana Medical Reserve Corps (AMRC)
Post Office Box 60488
Lafayette, LA 70592
Dr. Andy Blalock
337-852-8771
Calcasieu Medical Reserve Corps
Lake Charles, LA 70601
Angela Jouett
337-475-3217
City of Baton Rouge, Parish of East Baton
Rouge
3773 Harding Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70807
MRC Coordinator
225-389-2100
Jefferson Parish Medical Reserve Corps
1887 Ames Blvd
Marrero, LA 70072
Kenneth Padgett
504-349-5360
New Orleans Area Regional Medical Reserve Corps
1300 Perdido Street
Ste. 8 E 18
New Orleans, LA 70112
Badwi Amin
504-371-2485
Northwest Louisiana Medical Reserve Corps
1511 Doctor’s Drive
Bossier City, LA 71111
Terry Strain
318-425-5351
Plaquemines Parish Medical Reserve Corps
8344 Hwy. 23
Belle Chasse, LA 70037
Benny Puckett
504-391-2004

From MRC website:

http://www.medicalreservecorps.gov/state.asp?state=22

Acadiana Medical Reserve Corps (AMRC) View on Map

825 Kaliste Saloom Road
Brandywine 3, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508
Jennifer Doucet
337-262-5644

Calcasieu Medical Reserve Corps View on Map

707- A
Lake Charles, LA 70601
Angela Jouett
337-475-3217

City of Baton Rouge, Parish of East Baton Rouge View on Map

3773 Harding Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70807
MRC Coordinator
(225) 389-2100

Jefferson Parish Medical Reserve Corps View on Map

1887 Ames Blvd
Marrero, LA 70072
Kenneth Padgett
504-349-5360

New Orleans Area Regional Medical Reserve Corps View on Map

1300 Perdido St.
Ste. 8 E 18
New Orleans, LA 70112
Badwi Amin
504 371 2485

Northwest Louisiana Medical Reserve Corps View on Map

1511 Doctor’s Drive
Bossier City, LA 71111
Terry Strain
318-425-5351

Plaquemines Parish MRC View on Map

8344 Hwy. 23
Belle Chasse, LA 70037
Guy Laigast
504-391-2004

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My so called blog pimping?! at LiveJournal

December 23, 2007

(This post is in reference to LiveJournal comments yesterday.)

Getting comments on anything that I presented, of course, would be too much to ask from anyone here. I just wanted to hear you cry about how I SPAM everyone. I mean, really, the Katrina Memorial doesn’t spark any conversation around Christmas time. You didn’t have any family or friends to literally lose or a house to rebuild. You could care less if someone besmirches the memory of some anon. elderly woman who died in Katrina. The fact that a Columbia professor has allowed that disrespectful comment to infiltrate his research (on line no less) didn’t spark any comments, make you raise a moral eyebrow, or insight your rebuttal, or rebuttal from anyone who goes to UNO, or Tulane, or Loyola, or seminary school. I won’t include LSU, because the Baton Rouge community hates me and considers my post SPAM. LSU alumni don’t protest, anyway. The fact that some so called assistance agency, didn’t contact me until 2007, didn’t raise any eyebrows. Why the heck would you comment? I’m just SPAM. I never suggested that this was my most eloquent post – it wasn’t intended as such. ( I do not like to make stray comments, such as this: *(&*^%$#!), either. I apologize. It was a rant. I was upset. AND I bet your momandadinem bought your first car, paid your college tuition for you, and gave you an allowance, too. I understand thinking of others during Christmas wasn’t on your agenda. Consider my post, please, because I matter. Regardless of your opinions of me as a SPAMMER, I had something to say, that someone else thought was important. I am someone’s whole little world. I’m a mom. An x-wife. Your neighbor. An alumni. Community activist. Former community librarian. Former college librarian. Former healthcare worker. Veterans advocate. Military supporter. Former military wife. Housing advocate. And Columbia (dot edu’s) worst nightmare . . . if when I check that website, (http://www.katrinalist.columbia.edu/results.php), that lists the Victims of Katrina, and the comment hasn’t been removed yet. This community, and the other communites I’ve posted to, better start howlin’. And you better not be howlin’ at me, either. What do you wanna bet, LSU alumni and Baton Rouge community, cares about this one?

Please forward this, just because you hate ME to: (see my previous post for this jerks email address.) 

Who cares for the welfare of the elderly of Louisiana?

August 11, 2007

Cheryl Martin, God Bless You!

Article(s) to read first:  Levees-Lawsuits and especially one from Victor Hull at St. Pete Beach, “Care facilities lack buses for evacuation”

“… Representatives from Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and other states agreed. They also cited communicating after a disaster, when cell phones and land lines typically fail, and deciding when to call for evacuations as other major hurricane challenges facing nursing homes..”

Find Law for Corporate Counsel reported on Friday, August 10, 2007 concerning Lafon Nursing Home. It was the first article I’ve found on Lafon.

Katrina Suit Defendant Must Disclose Nursing Home Residents’ Info

By KEVIN MCVEIGH, ESQ., Andrews Publications Staff Writer
The owner of a New Orleans nursing home sued over the deaths of 22 residents during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath must disclose the names and home addresses of all people who were living there when the storm hit, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk ruled that disclosure of the residents’ identities does not violate Louisiana’s health care provider-patient privilege, because the information is necessary to determine whether the federal courts may continue to exercise jurisdiction over the class-action lawsuit against the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family. Cheryl Martin, who filed the suit, said she will use the information to show that more than two-thirds of the surviving residents and victims’ families are Louisiana citizens, thus making the case a “local controversy” over which Judge Africk may decline jurisdiction under the federal Class Action Fairness Act.

Martin’s mother, Ida Antoine, was one of 22 residents who died at Lafon in the days following Katrina.

Lafon, a Roman Catholic facility run by the Sisters of the Holy Family in eastern New Orleans, housed 130 elderly residents in 81 rooms at the time of the hurricane, according to the Washington Post.

Martin filed suit July 20, 2006, in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, seeking to represent a class consisting of all facility residents and visitors who suffered injury or died as a result of conditions at the home during and after Katrina.

She alleges that Lafon failed to evacuate the residents before the storm hit and disregarding warnings and the mandatory evacuation order New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued Aug. 27, 2005.

The storm hit two days later and cut the facility’s electrical power, which combined with the extreme heat to cause “unreasonably dangerous conditions” at the home, the suit says.

Lafon removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in August 2006 based on the Class Action Fairness Act.

The 2005 law provides federal courts with original jurisdiction over all class actions in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million and at least one class member lives in a different state from the defendant.

Martin asked the court to return the case to the Louisiana state court, citing the law’s “local controversy” exception.

In January Judge Africk refused to remand the case, ruling that Martin had failed to provide any evidence that two-thirds of the proposed class members are Louisiana citizens, as required by the exception.

However, he said Martin could refile her motion once she conducted discovery of the class members’ domicile.

Martin served Lafon with discovery requests seeking the identities and addresses of all potential class members. Lafon responded that the information was privileged.

In May Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby ordered an alternative to discovery under which Lafon will submit names, addresses and next-of-kin information to the court, and the court will send questionnaires to potential class members.

The court will then review the results to determine the class members’ domicile.

Lafon filed a motion to set aside the order, arguing that Judge Roby refused to apply Louisiana’s health care provider-patient privilege, which expressly prohibits the disclosure of the private information of patients not involved in the litigation.

Lafon argued that the state privilege is applicable since the case involves only state law negligence claims.

Judge Africk agreed that the magistrate erred by not applying the state health care provider-patient privilege. However, he said the state privilege does not bar discovery of medical records in cases where courts determine that the interests of justice are served by the records’ release.

Any exception to the privilege should be narrowly tailored and should extend only to necessary and relevant information, the judge said.

He found that disclosure of residents’ identifying information is necessary to determine the jurisdiction issue and for Martin to fulfill her duties as lead plaintiff by notifying all potential class members.

“Releasing this information presents a de minimis intrusion into the patients’ privacy, which is offset by the potential benefit that plaintiff’s lawsuit may provide,” Judge Africk wrote.

To comment, ask questions or contribute articles, contact West.Andrews.Editor@Thomson.com.


Martin et al. v. Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family Inc., No. 06-5108, 2007 WL 2228633 (E.D. La. July 31, 2007).
Nursing Home Litigation Reporter
Volume 10, Issue 04
08/10/2007
Copyright 2007
West, a Thomson business. All Rights Reserved.

See Also: Martin et al. v. Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family Inc., No. 06-5108, 2007 WL 2228633 (E.D. La. July 31, 2007).
Nursing Home Litigation Reporter
Volume 10, Issue 04
08/10/2007
http://west.thomson.com/product/40211158/product.asp

The Fight Moves Forward!

And from Atlanta Daily Report there is news about St. Rita’s.

Monday, August 13, 2007
Couple faces trial in wake of Katrina
Nursing home owners accused of negligent homicide, cruelty to elderly after flooding leaves residents dead

TWO YEARS AFTER Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,400 people, the only individuals charged with any of those deaths will go on trial Monday.

Salvador and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita’s Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, where flood waters left the dead amid mud and wheelchairs, are accused of 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of cruelty to the elderly or infirm.

The combined maximum sentence for each defendant would be 415 years in prison. The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.

The trial was moved to St. Francisville, about 100 miles northwest of New Orleans. Prosecutors, defense lawyers and state District Judge Jerome Winsberg agreed that assembling a jury would be difficult in St. Bernard. The New Orleans suburb was devastated when Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005 and its population has been slow to return. Only six jurors are required but their verdict must be unanimous.

Prosecutors charge the Manganos’ refusal to evacuate St. Rita’s residents before the storm was a criminal act.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued the day before Katrina hit. Forecasters had predicted a 21-foot storm surge would hit St. Bernard. Of five nursing homes in the parish, only St. Rita’s was not evacuated.

St. Rita’s has been closed since Katrina and the Manganos say they have no plan to reopen the nursing home.

Speaking before Winsberg imposed a gag order, Jim Cobb, lawyer for the Manganos, said state law did not require nursing homes to comply with mandatory evacuation orders. A report compiled by the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, a trade group, showed 36 of 57 nursing homes in the New Orleans area were not evacuated as Katrina approached.

St. Rita’s was built 20 years ago, and the location had not flooded since. However, during that period no hurricane even close to Katrina’s strength had made landfall in the parish, which is ringed by waterways connected to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Manganos say the area didn’t even flood when Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965.

That history, they say, was the basis for their decision to ride out Katrina in the one-story building rather than evacuate, Cobb said.

“We’re talking frail people, people with special needs, people who would be at risk during an evacuation,” Cobb said. “The Manganos thought they were saving lives by sheltering in place.”

The couple, in their 60s, was so certain St. Rita’s was safe that they invited relatives, staffers and others to shelter there. About 30 people, including the Mangano’s children, accepted the offer, the Manganos say.

As the storm subsided, it appeared St. Rita’s was safe—the roof was tight, the parking lot was dry. But broken levees soon brought a torrent of water that over a 20-minute period flooded the building almost to the ceiling.

The Manganos and staff managed to rescue about 28 patients, floating some out windows to save them. Other rescuers arrived later that day but the bodies remained in the building for up to 10 days. No one other than patients died at St. Rita’s.

The defense contends that because of government negligence, including faulty levees that broke during Katrina, the Manganos could not have known about the potential for flooding in advance.

Among the witnesses defense attorneys have subpoenaed are Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, head of the Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for the levees. Strock has since retired.

The defense wants Strock to repeat his statement at a news conference in June 2006 that defective levee design was the corps’ fault and caused most of the flooding. The federal government is fighting his subpoena.

Blanco and other public officials failed to organize an effective evacuation and help transport “at risk” people to high ground as required by state law, according to the defense.

In court filings, defense lawyers say responsibility for the tragedy can’t be determined “without evidence that the state and local authorities failed their duties.”

The Manganos sued the government this summer, saying federal, state and local officials failed to keep residents safe and evacuate vulnerable citizens as the storm approached. If the levees had not failed, they claim, the St. Rita’s residents would have been safe.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the couple by patients injured at the nursing home and the families of people who died there.

The only other criminal charges connected to Katrina deaths are against six former or current New Orleans police officers who face murder or attempted murder charges from a shooting after the storm. But the is not tied to flooding or direct impact of Katrina.

At least 34 people died at Memorial Medical Center in Uptown New Orleans after the hurricane, but three women arrested by the attorney general’s office will not stand trial. A grand jury refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou. Charges against nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry were dropped.

Twenty-two people died at Lafon Nursing Home, a facility run by nuns of the Holy Family order in eastern New Orleans. Residents were moved to the second floor as flooding began, but the home lost electricity. Rescuers did not arrive at Lafon until Sept. 1 amid a heat wave that had gripped the city.

Attorney General Charles Foti investigated the deaths at Memorial Medical Center, St. Rita’s and LaFon. The results of the LaFon investigation were turned over to the New Orleans district attorney a year ago but no action has been taken. A spokesman for District Attorney Eddie Jordan said the case remains under investigation.

Why would I buy all that if I wasn’t fixing it?

August 9, 2007

I understood that New Orleans and Louisiana, in general, had affordable housing issues prior to Katrina. Unsightly housing, or blighted housing has affected many in Louisiana. I’ve seen the old barge board, shot gun homes that people are actually living in today. I’ve walked through them before they were scheduled to be demolished. I’ve seen these places all over Louisiana. People need a place to call home, a place to live, and work, and rear their children. Regardless, of the substandard housing…they pay their rent and work and play like everyone else. Sure they complain to the landlords about the structural problems of their home. All of these landlords have one excuse or another as to why they never fixed the leaky roof, the plumbing, or the stove. The rent was cheap and so possibly some tenants did not complain. They were thankful for a place to live. The issues in New Orleans post Katrina are not new, unfortunately. It appears, as far as affordable housing is concerned, that they were only, and I use that term loosely and with sarcastic undertones, exacerbated after the disaster.

Some parishes, cities, or towns, have housing inspectors and some do not. Not everyone affected by Katrina lived in either Baton Rouge or New Orleans. It is an overlooked and under-exploited fact. Most of the inspection issues are applied both at the town, city, or parish level and require little else but an ordinance and the staff to conduct the inspections. Of course, the fees for the inspections are likely the responsibility of landowners. Inspections are just another financial issue for the homeowner/ landlord to deal with that they may not be able to afford.

The post office in the year since Katrina (now two years) had issues in delivering mail to the appropriate person(s) due to the mail forwarding time limits, names, families, etc. For those of you familiar with the postal services’ rules and regulations with regards to forwarding – you understand. I’ve sent letters off in the mail to Katrina damaged neighborhoods only to find the letter back inside my mailbox several weeks to a month later. I’ve had to call local Post Masters in order to verify addresses and tell them how silly they are being, all the while knowing that these people still live at the address I’ve listed, but I have received the letter stamped, “forward expired”.

The WAFB article dated June 2007 states that the city of Baton Rouge gave her six months in order to respond. The article was written in June, and said that the woman was given notice in August of 2006. The home was not damaged by Katrina according to the article, but was damaged by a fire after Katrina in the summer of 2006. The journalist was quick to point out that the original owner of the home, was dead, but did not go into detail. Assuming that the daughter kept her maiden name, which is a large assumption, there are a number of “Davis'” on the Katrina Victim list.

Did the journalist provide pertinent and adequate detail? “Woman Upset the City of Baton Rouge Bulldozed Her Home”.

Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine points out, “We’re here from the government, we’re here to help you.” August 6, 2007 A story from the Ninth Ward’s Jason Banks on KSAT San Antonio, Texas news online.

No One Knows Why Family’s Home Torn Down – Local News Story – KSAT San Antonio: “NEW ORLEANS — Jason Banks got his trash hauled away, obtained a building permit, gutted his Ninth Ward home and was ready to renovate.

But then, the brick house vanished, reduced to a slab in an unwanted demolition.

‘I was heartbroken. I was in tears. I was furious,’ he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said orders to tear down the house came from City Hall — but no one in City Hall is answering questions about Banks’ home.

‘They don’t know why. It happened it wasn’t on the blighted list. The last call I made yesterday, they told me FEMA did it. Then, a guy called me back from FEMA and said they’re not in the business if tearing down homes,’ Banks said.

Jason Banks said he kept his grass cut, paid his taxes and had the home appraised at $147,000. He was just waiting on money from Louisiana Road Home rebuilding program to make repairs to his house.”

And still more housing demolition articles gathered from The Truth Laid Bear.

Map with housing scheduled to be demolished in and around New Orleans. Disregard some misinformed, un-educated commentors who believe the map is a “propaganda” tool. The housing crisis before Katrina was too obvious to those who attempted to solve the problem. . . I wish it were all just propaganda! Internet maps are kewl and their display (ie linked icons – pins, circles, etc. ) oftentimes must be sized largely to create the internet link. Some of the comments here reflect extreme ignorance to both internet map making, and housing issues. Karen, listed below, also has a map of her photographed homes on the chopping block.

Still there are people who believe the housing crisis and issues in New Orleans are exclusive to the “African American” community. I have to give them credit for their media coverage, but I also have to interject that the short sighted focus on larger cities, and racial prejudice is getting into muddy water. Everyone deserves a place to call home – is my point exclusively. Others choose to make housing in New Orleans a racial issue. They can. It is their right. However wrong I feel about making this a racial issue, – the majority rules… and they are not home, yet.

Update: 11:25AM See also : Library Chronicles “It’s about G8d d*mmed time”

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal – It’s on today’s front page – link views actual paper.

Various Flickr Groups Photos
New Orleans
BloggingNewOrleans
louisiana
New Orleans Recovery
Hurricane Katrina
Defend New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina Photos – Pool
Humid City

What’s in the news for da parishes 8/01/07?

August 1, 2007

The Daily Advertiser
Jul 31, 3:35 PM EDT

AG to judge: make lawyers for nursing home owners apologise

By MARY FOSTER
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Attorney General wants a court-ordered apology from lawyers for the couple charged in the deaths of 35 nursing home residents after Hurricane Katrina. The lawyers want Foti ordered out of the case.

The judge should not just deny the motions filed for Salvador and Mabel Mangano, who own St. Rita’s nursing home, but make their lawyers apologize publicly, Foti’s office said in court motions. District Judge Jerome Winsberg was scheduled to rule on the motions Wednesday.

One of the Manganos’ motions asks that the attorney general’s $200 billion federal court claim against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers be made part of the court record in their case.

The other contends that because the suit against the Corps blames its faulty levees for the floods that inundated St. Rita’s, the rest of St. Bernard Parish and 80 percent of New Orleans, the charges against the Manganos are conflict of interest.

Foti contends those motions “are part of an ill-conceived and desperate attempt to thwart the jury process,” said a motion filed Monday in the 20th Judicial District Court in St. Francisville.

The attempt to make Foti step aside is pure public relations – an attempt to get their side of the story in the press, Assistant Attorney General Burton Guidry said.

He said the defense is also trying to create a red herring by accusing the attorney general personally and professionally of a conflict of interest, bringing politics into the case.

That “indicates the most frightening realization of how deep and broad the venom of public innuendo and baseless argument can be brought in a court proceeding,” he wrote.

If the court doesn’t make the Manganos’ lawyers apologize, it should penalize them in some way, he wrote.

The attorney general also filed motions to quash a subpoena for Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials, including Foti.

Defense attorneys could not respond to the motion because of a gag order preventing any discussion of the case. They did, however, file motions in opposition to the attorney general’s Tuesday afternoon.

The Advocate
State: Nursing home case targeting Foti

By JAMES MINTON
Advocate Baker – Zachary bureau
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 1B

ST. FRANCISVILLE — Attempts to bar state Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr. from prosecuting two St. Bernard Parish nursing home owners are but one more “chapter in the book of character assassination” against Foti, a state response to a defense motion says.

Retired Judge Jerome Winsberg is scheduled to hear arguments today on a request by attorneys for Salvador and Mabel Mangano to bar Foti and his office from prosecuting the case.

The judge should require the defense attorneys to “publicly apologize” for what the state prosecutors call baseless arguments for Foti’s removal, the memorandum signed by Assistant Attorney General Burton P. Guidry says.

The prosecutors also filed motions Monday to halt the defense’s move to have Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Foti and members of Blanco’s cabinet testify in the case.

The Manganos, owners of St. Rita’s nursing home, face 35 counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of residents trapped by flood waters that inundated the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The couple also faces 24 counts of cruelty to the infirm.

Their trial, moved to West Feliciana Parish, is scheduled for Aug. 13.

Winsberg has issued a gag order barring attorneys from commenting publicly about the case.

The couple’s attorneys contend Foti has a conflict of interest in prosecuting the case because he also is claiming in a federal lawsuit that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the devastation that followed the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

Foti’s reply calls the defense argument a “red herring” and says no conflict of interest exists in his office prosecuting criminal offenses while also representing the legal interests of various state agencies.

“Our courts have been clear in delineating that the normal rules of conflict for private counsel do not apply in the same manner when the Office of Attorney General is concerned,” the state’s filing says.

The state’s reply concludes the defense arguments are intended to obfuscate the legal issues and are “part and parcel of an orchestrated public relations campaign to transfer blame to anyone but the Manganos.”

In a separate motion to quash the subpoena for Blanco’s testimony, the Attorney General’s Office said issuing a subpoena for the governor violates state law because no hearing was held to determine the privileged nature of the testimony and the applicability of constitutional immunity provisions.

Blanco and other cabinet officials subpoenaed are not witnesses to the alleged crime and have no knowledge of the case, other than through media coverage, the motion says.
Hammond Daily Star Online – By Don Ellzey
Thursday, July 26, 2007 10:01 AM CDT
Ponchatoula’s 1st Habitat house

PONCHATOULA – The city’s first Habitat for Humanity house was dedicated Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included a large turnout by local and parish officials, Ginger Ford Habitat for Humanity representatives and the general public.

Under a broiling sun that had almost everyone sweating during the mid-morning ceremony, Rosie August was presented the key to her new home at 333 Cedar Lane.

Blair Edwards, executive director for the Hammond-based Ginger Ford Habitat for Humanity, said the mission of providing homes for people in need is a Christian ministry to change lives.

“It’s amazing how something as simple as picking up a hammer can change people’s lives,” Edwards said.

The family of Mayor Bob Zabbia donated the lot. Waste Management and Charter Communications were the project’s corporate sponsors.

August accumulated more than 1,000 hours of “sweat equity” working on this home and the homes of others. She will move into the gray frame house with her four children, Brittany, Alicia, Quinten and Terry. The house will allow them to leave behind a lifestyle of living with friends and family.

Among those recognized during the ceremony was the Ponchatoula High School Future Farmers of America Chapter. Edwards said chapter members helped build the house and will work with Master Gardeners of Tangipahoa Parish this year to landscape the lot.

The Junior Auxiliary of Hammond provided some clothing and furnishings.

Community support was a key to the success of the project, Edwards said.

Cars for Homes also helped, she said.

Marcia Rundle of Seattle, director of Habitat’s Cars for Homes program, said the organization gets donations of cars and other vehicles to raise money for the Habitat program. Rundle said a resident of a Northeastern state donated a power boat, the sale of which started the Ponchatoula house.

Hurricane Katrina was a “perfect storm” that caused much devastation and hardship, she said. After Katrina, the Habitat for Humanity program was a “perfect storm” of love that has resulted in such projects as the one in Ponchatoula.

“I wish you luck in moving forward with this ministry and the building of more homes,” Rundle said.

Zabbia said it was great to see the culmination of the project. Much effort from many people went into the construction.

He thanked his family for agreeing to the donation, and said he was looking forward to more such projects in the city.

Jim Laurent, director of government relations for Charter Communications, commended Edwards for her role in coordinating the project.

In closing the ceremony, Edwards commented on the “theology of the hammer.” When someone picks up a hammer, regardless of their religious affiliation, they manifest love by building a house. That love passes through the hammer to others.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a Bible with a hammer on top was passed along the line to each participant.
The Daily Iberian
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:36 PM CDT
BY JEFF MOORE, THE DAILY IBERIAN
Comeaux takes parish president’s post
To fill the void created by the resignation of Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais, the Parish Council turned to its elder statesman Monday.

Committee to discuss pay hike for top official
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:36 PM CDT
BY JEFF MOORE, THE DAILY IBERIAN

“…A measure that would boost the salary of the parish president by nearly $24,000 will go before the Finance Committee of the Iberia Parish Council on Wednesday.

The committee will discuss increasing the salary of the parish’s top elected official from $103,060 to $126,963…”

Cajun Jokes – Cajun telecommunications
Friday, March 9, 2007 11:34 AM CST

Cast your Vote for LSU Tigers to win the SEC Conference at The Daily Iberian.

Hurricane victims get additional year to sell vacant land The Courier
Houma Today.com August 01. 2007 7:58AM

July 31. 2007 10:51AM
Disagreement over Lafourche levee bill remains at stalemate
BEN LUNDIN- Staff Writer Houma Today.com

July 30. 2007 12:01PM
Locals say illnesses may be linked to FEMA trailers
NAOMI KING- Staff Writer Houma Today.com

Wallace Trosclair (right) stands outside his FEMA trailer home, which he says may be to blame for his recent health problems. In the background (from left to right) are Trosclair’s daughter Amanda Trosclair, 20, Amanda’s daughter, Ansleigh Lovell, and friend Ashely Luke, 17.
Purchase this photo Zoom
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DULAC — At first he didn’t notice the labored breathing, but, Wallace Trosclair said, once he compared his health before and after living in a FEMA trailer, he saw a difference.

The 40-year-old commercial fisherman said he and his 39-year-old wife, Melissa Marie Trosclair, have experienced health problems since they started living in a FEMA trailer. Hurricane Rita flooded the couple’s house in 2005.

“She got diagnosed with asthma. Right before that, I got diagnosed with it,” he said Sunday afternoon, while working to remove the pillars that once supported his now-demolished Shrimpers Row home.

As of Friday, about a dozen Terrebonne and Lafourche people living in FEMA trailers have reported health issues or concerns they say are related to a chemical called formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is used in a variety of products, including composite wood and plywood panels used in the trailers that house hurricane victims throughout the Gulf Coast.

In light of recent reports that formaldehyde vapors from FEMA trailers led to health problems for its occupants, federal government workers distributed fliers warning of the danger to the more than 45,000 travel-trailer residents in Louisiana and set up a hotline for people who have concerns. And FEMA officials started working with scientists last week to set up a way to test the trailers for the chemical.

Trosclair said he received one of the health-warning fliers and, though he hasn’t reported his health problems to the agency, he suspects that he’s having difficulty breathing at night because of time spent in the trailer.

Trosclair said he hasn’t talked to a doctor about his labored breathing, which is more pronounced while he’s sleeping, because he wants to test his theory that the trailer is to blame by sleeping elsewhere for several nights in a row. He plans to sleep on his boat, he said, and see how he fares.

“I’d have to stay somewhere else to see if I get a different reaction,” he said. “Because then it would be fresh air.”

Farther down Shrimpers Row, Patricia and Joseph Verdin say they and their three kids haven’t had any health problems because of their FEMA trailer.

“No health problems. I just smoke too much,” said 41-year-old Patricia, who spends most of her day inside the trailer, time typically spent cooking, cleaning and browsing the Internet.

If she did notice anything, Patricia said, she would definitely consult a doctor.

“If any of us get cancer, I’ll question it,” she said, adding that the possibility concerns her.

The Verdins said they’re not sure if they can trust FEMA, which handed out fliers without discussion.

“No one was around to speak to you. They just duct-taped them to the FEMA trailers,” Patricia said.

As for official complaints of health problems, FEMA hotlines registered nine calls from Terrebonne, FEMA officials said.

Four of those calls were health questions that FEMA officials referred to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The other five callers asked to review other living options paid for by FEMA.

Five people from Lafourche called FEMA with concerns. Four of those had health-related questions, and the other was interested in finding an alternative place to live, officials said.

Bob Josephson, external-affairs director for Louisiana’s FEMA office, declined to provide specifics on who made the calls or the extent of reported health problems.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible. But we can’t cross the line of people’s privacy,” he said.

The CDC is encouraging anyone who may have health problems to see a doctor. It’s important to tell the doctor that the affected person lives in a FEMA trailer.

Symptoms associated with illnesses from inhaling formaldehyde include:

# Headaches, fatigue and irritation of nose, eyes, throat and skin.

# Symptoms can be worse for people with asthma and other chronic health conditions.

FEMA trailer residents can protect themselves from overexposure to formaldehyde by:

# Airing out the trailer by opening the windows and turning on fans.

# Not smoking inside the trailer.

# Keeping indoor temperatures moderate. The warmer the temperature and higher the humidity, the quicker the gas will be released.

At a news conference in New Orleans last week, FEMA officials declined to comment on recent allegations in Congress that FEMA lawyers ignored requests from workers to test trailers for formaldehyde.

“I’m not going to comment on what the lawyers may have said,” said Jim Stark, director of the Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office.

Tuesday, a crew of scientists, epidemiologists, hygienists and other medical experts canvassed New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Biloxi to look at trailers — their design, use and interior humidity.

The information will be used to establish guidelines for testing more trailers in the future.

Though the federal government regulates how much formaldehyde is allowed in homes and buildings, no rules have been made regarding travel trailers.

“At this time, frankly, there is no commonly accepted or federally regulated level for travel trailers,” Stark said.

The goal is to find what is a “reasonable level” of formaldehyde for travel trailers, Stark said.

The scientists also will look at all indoor-air-quality issues, including mold and other potentially harmful chemicals.

As of last week, 291 people from throughout the state had called FEMA’s toll-free number to report a health problem or ask questions about the chemical.

About 30 percent to 40 percent of the callers asked to move out of their trailers, FEMA officials said.

“We’re always trying to get people to transition to more suitable housing,” Stark said.

As of May, people in Terrebonne Parish had 520 trailer leases with FEMA; Lafourche had 215.

In the past few months, FEMA has also offered to sell trailers to those who live in them. So far, 284 people in Terrebonne and 131 in Lafourche have expressed interest.

But only six trailers have been sold so far, FEMA officials said. If people want to return the trailers they buy, FEMA will reimburse them.

Officials at the CDC said they couldn’t comment on the extent of problems being reported. Instead the center gives information about the possible heath risks and tells callers to consult local doctors, said spokeswoman Dagny Olivares.

Formaldehyde can be found in a range of everyday items, including cleaning solutions, shampoos, clothing, couch cushions, gas appliances, cigarettes and plywood. Long-term exposure has been linked to cancer, asthma, bronchitis and allergies.

It’s not clear, however, what constitutes long-term exposure, Olivares said.

“A lot of the work that’s been done has been worker related,” Olivares said of studies.

Workers tend to be at work eight hours a day, she said. So, someone living in a trailer could conceivably be exposed for longer periods of time. That factor will be taken into account when CDC scientists establish “reasonable” exposure levels, she said.

Staff Writer Naomi King can be reached at 857-2209 or naomi.king@houmatoday.com.

N.O. project to provide housing
By JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate New Orleans bureau
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 14A

The Advocate Baton Rouge, Louisiana
E-mails: FEMA knew about toxin
By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
Published: Jul 21, 2007 – Page: 1A

WASHINGTON – When FEMA tested unoccupied trailers in Baton Rouge for formaldehyde, the move confused staff attorney Jill F. Igert.

Igert raised red flags to FEMA administrators that the testing would not yield a realistic reading of how residents who were complaining of toxic fumes were living. FEMA had tested the trailers over a 14-day period in September 2006 with the windows open and the air conditioners running, according to documents released Thursday by a House oversight committee.

“I don’t understand why Sample B is focused on the utilization of the air conditioner and virtually nothing else since it is unrealistic that an applicant will use it 24 hours a day,” Igert wrote in a report.

But Federal Emergency Management Agency officials used that testing to conclude that the only step occupants of the trailers needed to take was “airing out” their campers.

The Igert report was part of the documents released Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Igert wasn’t alone in her concern. E-mails released by the committee show that FEMA field workers recognized a problem.

“We need to take a proactive approach,” staffer James Lowery wrote on March 17, 2006. “The implications are much too large not to take immediate steps to assure safety of our units.”

“This needs to be fixed today,” wrote James Russo, another FEMA staffer, also on March 17, 2006.

However, dozens of e-mails released by the committee and reviewed by The Advocate show that FEMA lawyers were more concerned about being sued than protecting residents.

“Do not initiate any testing until we give the OK,” FEMA attorney Patrick Pearson advised in an e-mail. “While I agree we should conduct testing, we should not do so until we are fully prepare (sic) to respond to the results. Once you get the results and should they indicate a problem, the clock is ticking on our duty to respond to them.”

Lawmakers rap FEMA
House members participating in the hearing on the matter Thursday accused FEMA of covering up the reports of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, despite receiving 200 complaints.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, requested the hearing. E-mails showed that FEMA was more concerned about negative publicity and being sued than it was over the potential health risks to travel trailer occupants, he said.

FEMA issued 120,000 travel trailers after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005, FEMA said. About 62,000 trailers are still in use, including 44,000 in Louisiana, according to the agency.

“This is more than an isolated problem and they refused to treat it as systematic,” Jindal said. “What you never see in the e-mail chain is someone saying ‘What about the health of the children?’ ”

FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison told the House panel that he did not instruct agency attorneys to recommend holding off testing. Paulison said he lets the office of general counsel operate at its own discretion.

But Paulison acknowledged that the final responsibility rests with him. The agency replaced 58 trailers, including 18 in Louisiana, Paulison said.

“The department did not stop dealing with formaldehyde,” Paulison said. “We were not formaldehyde experts. In hindsight, we could’ve moved faster.”

U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., told Paulison that attorneys trying to protect the agency may have put it in more legal hot water.

“You should get new lawyers,” said Norton, an attorney. “You have increased your liability. Plaintiffs may be able to show you knew.”

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., criticized Paulison for not being more hands on.

“That’s not hindsight,” Waxman said. “You didn’t have the foresight to listen to your own staff.”

First complaints
The first complaint about formaldehyde came in March 2006 when a Mississippi couple reported problems to a local television station. FEMA’s test of the trailer – the only occupied trailer the agency has tested – showed levels that were 75 percent higher than the maximum workplace exposure level recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Safe levels were recommended at below .01 parts per million, but parts of the trailer tested as high as 2.4 ppm. A room that contained bunk beds tested at 1.2 ppm.

“Who sleeps in bunk beds?” asked committee member U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. “Our precious children.”

FEMA also was criticized for not providing residents with contact numbers to address their problems. James Harris, a 46-year-old minister from Gulf Port, Miss., testified that the contractors representing FEMA changed often.

Not being able to reach FEMA representatives to complain, the married father of one tried to make the best of the situation by buying a $470 air purifier. On Monday, Harris ended up in the emergency room with respiratory problems.

“When you’re helpless, that’s one thing, but when you’re hopeless that’s worse,” Harris said.

FEMA e-mails indicate that one agency representative advised another not to put a contact phone number on information handed out to residents.

“I don’t see a number on it,” staffer Sidney Melton wrote. “Are y’all going to put your MDC numbers on it? We here in (Mississippi) would put our call center number on it.”

Martin McNeese, a FEMA staffer in Louisiana, wrote back: “Hi Sid, we are trying to not generate a lot of calls, just get the facts out as we know them so we are not putting our number on it.”

Paulison denied committee claims that FEMA intentionally tried not to respond to complaints. Each trailer had a number posted on it so people with problems could call a FEMA maintenance center, he said.

But after the hearing, Paulison acknowledged that FEMA should have used the formaldehyde warning brochure they eventually put out to alert residents to call the maintenance centers.

“We should have done that and we didn’t do that,” Paulison said.

Media reports sickness
E-mails also show that FEMA workers initially were suspicious of people complaining about formaldehyde. That was especially true in Mississippi, where the first media report of sickness surfaced during a local television newscast.

Lindsay Huckabee, a mother of five from Kiln, Miss., testified that she never saw the TV report. Huckabee said her ear, nose and throat doctor warned her to get out of her trailer because he had seen other travel trailer patients with similar respiratory symptoms.

Over-exposure to formaldehyde, a solvent used in press wood and adhesives, can result in burning eyes, coughing, sore throats, chest pains and nose bleeds, scientists say. Huckabee’s daughter suffered chronic nosebleeds, she said.

“I was told by our ENT that we needed to get out of the trailer as soon as we could,” Huckabee said. “He had many repeat patients with the same symptoms all living in FEMA trailers.”

A class action suit was filed about six weeks ago against the travel trailer manufacturers. Daniel Becnel, an attorney in Reserve, is handling the case, representing “a couple of thousand” FEMA trailer occupants from Florida to Louisiana, he said. Becnel is seeking $2 billion in his lawsuit.

And formaldehyde exposure is the subject of a lawsuit in Baton Rouge federal court. Desiree Collins, 47, who moved to Renaissance Village after losing her home in New Orleans, sued River Forest Inc. and other makers of the FEMA trailers.

Collins died earlier this month of lung cancer; it isn’t clear yet whether formaldehyde played any role.

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., represents a district where 60 percent of the nation’s travel trailers are made. Souder criticized the hearings Thursday, saying none of the testimony implicated trailer manufacturers.

“We don’t have any experts on this panel,” Souder said. “What we have here is terrible personal stories that the government should have responded to. You cannot say on the record that it was the way they were made.”

On Wednesday, the eve of the committee hearing, FEMA announced it had asked the national Centers for Disease Control to conduct short-term tests on the air quality in occupied trailers and long-term tests on the possible health ramifications of those who may have been exposed to the toxins, which were used in campers.

“This agency has made the best decisions it could with the information we had,” Paulison said. “Now we have to do something different than we’ve done in the past.”

Ex-Saint No. 1 on bad list
Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson.
‘Most wanted’ poster lists delinquent parents
By EMILY KERN
Advocate staff writer
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 1A

“Former New Orleans Saints player Rickey Jackson, who earned millions of dollars on the gridiron, holds the top spot in Louisiana as the noncustodial parent who owes the most in back child support.

Jackson and 17 others are featured on this year’s “Most Wanted” poster by the state Department of Social Services Support Enforcement Services division. They owe more than $759,000 combined — Jackson owes $160,000 — in court-ordered child support…”
Technorati Blog Searches Katrina

http://gigglesngrinsphoto.typepad.com/giggles_n_grins_photograp/2007/07/701-days.html
Giggles n Grins Photography: 701 days

http://www.fordrealtyco.net/blog/?p=53
tomsblog The Road Home

http://www.fordrealtyco.net/blog/?page_id=2
About Tom – Where is he from?

http://swampytad.livejournal.com/51604.html
LiveJournal User – Home owners insurance up 50%
Nothing to say … tired of rant….signing off

http://www.speaker.gov/blog/?p=645
Oversight Hearing on FEMA Preparedness
The Gavel

http://brothersjuddblog.com/archives/2007/07/it_wasnt_the_rain_but_the_regi.html
Brothers Judd Blog: It Wasn’t the rain, but the regime

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!

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.