Government

More News | | | Editor

FEMA: Augusta broke federal regulations in ice storm cleanup contracts

Monday, June 23, 2014 6:30 PM
Last updated Friday, June 27, 2014 6:33 PM
  • Follow Government

Editor's Note: A photo in the print edition of The Augusta Chronicle illustrating  the city's February cleanup from an ice storm showed workers clearing tree limbs. Unlimited Residential was not one of the companies working under a city contract that, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, broke federal regulations in procuring two contracts for the cleanup. The photo should not have been used with this story. 

Sleet, ice and fallen trees are seen on Lombardy Court after a winter storm hit Augusta in February. FEMA officials say Augusta broke numerous federal regulations in procuring two cleanup contracts to clean up debris after the ice storm, but say the city will likely will be reimbursed by the agency for most cleanup costs incurred.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
SARA CALDWELL/FILE
Sleet, ice and fallen trees are seen on Lombardy Court after a winter storm hit Augusta in February. FEMA officials say Augusta broke numerous federal regulations in procuring two cleanup contracts to clean up debris after the ice storm, but say the city will likely will be reimbursed by the agency for most cleanup costs incurred.

Augusta broke numerous federal regulations in procuring two contracts for cleanup from a winter ice storm, but likely will be reimbursed by FEMA for most of cleanup costs, according to correspondence from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The city’s sole-source, noncompetitive bid awards to Ashbritt Environmental and Leidos Inc. for cleanup starting Feb. 25, two weeks after the storm dumped a rare inch of ice on the area, did not comply with FEMA regulations requiring a competitive procurement, a June 13 letter from FEMA coordinating officer Michel Moore said.

The letter also states the city did not meet requirements for the attempted inclusion of women, minorities and local firms, justify its use of a “time and materials” contract for the work or separate negotiations for profit from price.

The city has paid more than $17 million in cleanup costs so far, including more than $12.5 million to Ashbritt and $1.8 million to Leidos, with the expectation FEMA will reimburse 85 percent of the funds for the first 30 days and 75 percent to Day 90. Project worksheets are not complete and no reimbursement has taken place, according to city Finance Director Donna Williams.

Unprepared as Columbia County was with a “prepositioned” contract for disaster debris removal, Richmond County had to “piggyback,” a process discouraged by FEMA, on two coastal Georgia counties’ contracts for hurricane cleanup with Ashbritt and Leidos when the storm hit.

Though Moore’s letter cites violations throughout the process, he said emergency conditions justify the city’s use of noncompetitive bid awards, up to the point the emergency no longer existed.

“The circumstances justified a noncompetitive procurement for the time period of Feb. 25 until April 7, 2014, which was the beginning of the Masters Golf Tournament,” Moore said.

After out-of-town cleanup crews vacated motel rooms to make way for Masters Tournament guests, emergency conditions no longer existed and the city should have turned to competitively bid contracts for the remainder of the work, however.

“The circumstances did not warrant a noncompetitive procurement beyond April 7, 2014, which is when the applicant could have had a competitively procured contract in place that met all the requirements of 44 C.F.R. 13.36(b)(i),” said Moore.

Fortunately for Augusta, city officials said work done by the firms after April 7 represents less than 5 percent of the total cleanup bill.

“Everything was essentially complete on the fourth, the Friday before Masters,” said Steve Cassell, the interim deputy administrator.

Cassell said the remaining work consisted primarily of grinding and removal of woody debris from staging areas and “a couple hot spots here and there” that together cost Augusta no more than a half-million dollars.

A final determination on Augusta’s eligibility for reimbursement has not been made, but Moore said based on the noncompliance, FEMA will reimburse Augusta for the work done after April 7 not based on what the city paid, but on “what FEMA concludes as reasonable costs for the services performed, which may or may not align to the costs actually incurred by the applicant.”

Augusta commissioner Marion Williams said he’d been alarmed by the strong language in the letter, but was relieved to hear the city likely will “get the majority of it.”

Williams said he’d pressed during the immediate storm aftermath to conduct an emergency procurement that involved local vendors, but “they said we didn’t have enough time.”

The rare storm was a learning experience, and city officials are developing a request for proposals from firms to have prepositioned contracts in place the next time a disaster creates significant debris, according to Cassell and Augusta Fire Chief Chris James.

As a fire chief since 2012 who has doubled as emergency management agency director, a position required by Georgia law, James said the EMA continues to take steps to sufficiently prepare for disasters. He deflected criticism that Augusta needs a full-time EMA director, a mayoral appointment, to ensure regulations are followed and precautions are taken.

“We have a full-time person to prepare and assure we are prepared for disasters,” who is Mie Lucas, the disaster preparedness coordinator, James said. A former Red Cross disaster staffer in Charleston, S.C., Lucas was hired in January 2013 at a salary of $57,859.

The office now has James, an administrative assistant, an EMA specialist and a deputy fire chief to assist with preparations and improvements since the tenure of former Fire Chief Howard Willis, who doubled as EMA director with a staff of one.

“This is just an event that took place early in our tenures,” James said. “We have made great strides in the past couple of years.”

Comments (16) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
itsanotherday1
58682
Points
itsanotherday1 06/23/14 - 08:04 pm
8
2
A half million here, a half

A half million here, a half million there......

deestafford
47146
Points
deestafford 06/23/14 - 11:23 pm
10
7
Typical government involvement...

Typical government involvement when it comes to immediate need. Why didn't you get a minority mix? Female mix? Mexican mix? Islamic mix? After all we must be inclusive. Never mind the situation.

This is exactly like Obama in Iraq. The radicals are almost at the capital and he wants the government to reorganize and include all parties. That's like hearing Sherman is at Pollard's Corner heading this way and Augusta can't get any help until it includes Carpetbaggers and Scallywags in a government reorganization,

The city does need to have some emergency contracts done ahead of time for such emergencies. I know Augusta National has a contingency plan for everything. If a meteor hit overnight on Tuesday of the Masters they would have it cleaned up and the hole filled in before daylight.

The military has preplanned no-bid emergency contracts for battle such as Haliburton to provide mess halls in Iraq because of the short time frame.

dickworth1
956
Points
dickworth1 06/24/14 - 06:39 am
8
5
Regulations, who cares!
Unpublished

our great leaders in the city government could care less about rules just like the president.

LillyfromtheMills
15871
Points
LillyfromtheMills 06/24/14 - 06:41 am
8
3
Hard to believe

Folks hired for this and they still aren't ready - they should be rated an F

TrukinRanger
1804
Points
TrukinRanger 06/24/14 - 06:45 am
1
0
So Marion Williams was
Unpublished

So Marion Williams was concerned at the strong language? What do you expect when you don't follow the rules? Just because you all can break them locally day in and day out doesn't mean you're doing things correctly.

belle
333
Points
belle 06/24/14 - 06:55 am
1
0
The irony of it all
Unpublished

If we were more prepared for a disaster it wouldn't be that big of a disaster. I am also sick of the government telling us we must use the lowest bidder with the most mix of employees to come dig us out. I don't want the cheapest, I want the best. Not necessarily the most expensive, just the most qualified with the best equipment and manpower to handle the situation.

corgimom
51805
Points
corgimom 06/24/14 - 07:47 am
7
8
This has nothing to do with

This has nothing to do with Obama and everything to do with incompetent commissioners, and their incompetence is well-known.

Little Lamb
56914
Points
Little Lamb 06/24/14 - 07:58 am
6
3
Top

Don't forget the city administrator's role in leading.

AFjoe
14828
Points
AFjoe 06/24/14 - 08:04 am
8
4
So sue us

A good friend works for FEMA,told me they were the most un-organized orginization he had ever worked for.
The article states emergency conditions exist, so waivers are allowed.
Next time this happens, lets get "Girls with chainsaws" bid in quick

Pops
24636
Points
Pops 06/24/14 - 08:33 am
7
2
""Williams said he’d pressed during the immediate storm

aftermath to conduct an emergency procurement that involved local vendors, but “they said we didn’t have enough time.”"

He is always on top of things. :)

seenitB4
129213
Points
seenitB4 06/24/14 - 08:41 am
8
3
This might be funny

But it is so deadly...

dee..you are so right on this...
Why didn't you get a minority mix? Female mix? Mexican mix? Islamic mix? After all we must be inclusive. Never mind the situation.

We had power outages for DAYS...babies in the homes, BUT WAIT...we need to be freaking inclusive..
I can't put what I'm thinking on here...I would get kicked to the curb.
This is a sad day in our history & I really hate it for the younger generation.

bright idea
1401
Points
bright idea 06/24/14 - 08:43 am
11
2
Had a storm

one time and a huge Menonite group just showed up and started cleaning up for no pay. FEMA tried to make them stop until they could take pictures and seek bids for cleanup. Local mayor told FEMA to leave town. The mess was gone in 2 days. Menonites said that was how they trained their children.

deestafford
47146
Points
deestafford 06/24/14 - 09:27 am
8
3
Question: What did we do in this country before...

Question: What did we do in this country before FEMA? Somehow, we survived very well by taking care of ourselves with out Uncle Sugar getting involved using OPM.

gargoyle
24525
Points
gargoyle 06/24/14 - 12:32 pm
5
1
Before Carter and FEMA the

Before Carter and FEMA the States directed the emergency response and planed accordingly . Now we are strapped with a one size fits all politicized bureaucracy. As it stands now the Governor of a States hands are tied till the Feds decide how they want it handled by penalty of withholding funds that the states pay FEMA. Gone are the day's of States running emergency response, Uncle Sugar holds the purse strings.

jimmymac
68751
Points
jimmymac 06/24/14 - 01:01 pm
0
0
FEMA
Unpublished

When a government bureaucrat tried to protect his fiefdom in Aiken City. They suffered and it ultimately cost him his job. FEMA came into the county area and did a yeoman's job clearing the tree debris. It was done by private contractors and they were great. I doubt if it was done by city/county workers if it would be done yet.

TrulyWorried
23368
Points
TrulyWorried 06/24/14 - 01:24 pm
5
1
Big mess

I wish they would shut down the White House, all government offices and let the population and people handle it - they know how to take care of their own affairs and would probably do a better job within their respective states. Get the Menonite folks up front - they'll show you how!!!

nocnoc
69856
Points
nocnoc 06/24/14 - 04:29 pm
5
0
Augusta Broke the Fed's rules

I guess that's why it got done as quickly as it did...

The Commissioners have my support of this.

When the stuff hits the fan and action is needed waiting on FEMA kills people.

Or has everybody forgotten New Orleans and the FEMA screw up's?
Yes it did happen under Bush, but unlike Obama, the appointee did not get promoted, Bush got rid of the FEMA Director.

seenitB4
129213
Points
seenitB4 06/24/14 - 04:35 pm
5
0
Sometimes

Gov programs KILL people...this is just one example...

We really need to get some of these programs thrown in the ditch.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 06/24/14 - 06:05 pm
0
0
obama's regime is
Unpublished

corrupt from top to bottom. How dare those bums even suggest that someone else broke the law.

TCB22
905
Points
TCB22 06/24/14 - 09:38 pm
0
0
So.....

It looks like everyone is in favor of doing away with minimum requirements and just have the Feds write a check out for whatever amount you want to say a disaster costs. In this case $17 million. It's so insane that everyone wants to blame FEMA for the shortcomings of a community who didn't care enough to plan ahead so this kind of mess doesn't happen.

gargoyle
24525
Points
gargoyle 06/24/14 - 10:24 pm
0
0
TCB22 whats insane is the

TCB22 whats insane is the feds requiring states to pay into the FEMA Ponzi plan depriving them funds to plan ahead. Now the trap has sprung requiring them to rub their head and pat their stomach to please a over reaching Federal Agency to get back funds they paid to them.

Back to Top
loading...
Search Augusta jobs