Sharp Contrast in FEMA Reimbursement Projects Between
Gulfport and Biloxi
(Update Note: GCN has received an updated list of FEMA eligible projects for Biloxi with details on eligible projects. The new list shows a total of $111,536,623 as of 1/19/07 for MEMA which is the most current total. The city estimates around $148,000,000 total projected projects.)
Gulfport residents wondering why it seems that the city is moving slowly on hurricane recovery have a good reason to question what is going on in their city.
According to documents obtained by GulfCoastNews.com, Gulfport officials have less than a third of the total value of projects that the city of Biloxi has compiled for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Biloxi officials report that they have over $148 million in total FEMA reimbursement with $75 million going for debris removal and the remainder, about $74 million to help rebuild the city, compared to nearly $25 million for projects in Gulfport. Gulfport shows nearly $100 million for debris removal.
GCN obtained information on the FEMA reimbursement work for both cities. The information represents recovery projects in the cities that will be funded by FEMA for repairs. The projects are for work to restore city buildings, parks, roads and water and sewer, and many others. The lists also include costs of debris removal, much of which have already been completed. The lists do not show when the work was completed or what is left to be done. The contrast between the two cities is shocking as Gulfport, is the state's second largest city and would be easy to assume that Gulfport would have more projects that need FEMA assistance than they have listed. The projects that can be approved by FEMA only restore city services and facilities to their pre-Katrina level.
What this indicates is that Gulfport's FEMA-paid for repairs are likely not representative of the total repairs that the city actually needs and that the Gulfport administration under Mayor Brent Warr may not be doing all that is needed to get the money that is available to make the repairs. This could result in the city missing out on legitimate reimbursement for repairs that are needed. It may already be too late for reimbursement money for some types of projects from FEMA.
According to Biloxi's Public Information Manager Vincent Creel, contacted by GCN, Biloxi lists 99 percent of the city's FEMA worksheets have been approved.
Gulfport's current administration has little experience in government. The administration under Brent Warr only went into office in July 2005 and many of the department heads and most of the City Council are new as well.
Gulfport's Mayor Warr has not yet returned from his trip to China reportedly to seek Chinese builders for affordable housing and to look for attractive light posts for the city. Warr has declined to replace street lights along U.S. 90 and elsewhere as he is hopeful to find more attractive lighting for his Katrina-torn city.
Warr's chief administrative officer David Nichols announced earlier last week that he would be leaving the city due to health issues within his family. The city's Public Information Officer, Kelly Jakubik resigned in December. Jukubik is still listed as the media contact person on the city's official website, which has not been updated to reflect the change.
Biloxi officials said Mayor A.J. Holloway traveled to Jackson this earlier this month to meet with state lawmakers and the Governor over Katrina-recovery issues.