FEMA: City reimbursed for overtime work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2005

NATCHEZ &8212; FEMA officials say comments made in Tuesday&8217;s aldermen meeting regarding reimbursement for debris cleanup tell only half the story.

Natchez Public Works Director Eric Smith told aldermen FEMA will only reimburse the city $39,066 for labor, materials and the like used to clean up hurricane debris.

That&8217;s little more than a third of the $117,000 the city requested.

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The city would have been reimbursed much more &8212; up to $60,000 for labor alone &8212; had the city waited to use FEMA-approved contractors instead of doing the work itself.

But the $117,000 figure in itself only shows &8220;the city had the wherewithal to do it,&8221; said Eugene Brezany, public affairs officer for FEMA in Mississippi, referring to debris removal.

&8220;As the city did have the capability, we can reimburse them for hours spent (on cleanup) over and above regular work hours&8221; &8212; in other words, overtime, Brezany said.

Brezany also said Smith&8217;s estimate that it would take six months to three years to be reimbursed was an exaggeration.

Smith said he received his timeline from a FEMA representative.

But Brezany said FEMA should reimburse the $39,066 &8220;within a few weeks, at least by January.&8221;

When it comes to asking for reimbursement for cleanup, &8220;the costs have to be reasonable,&8221; Brezany said.

When broken down by cubic yards of debris removed, the $117,000 the city wants reimbursed would equal $97.50 per cubic yard &8212; well above the Mississippi average of $15 per cubic yard, he added.