Push for money to fix stations stepped up
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
By Coleman Warner
A newly created private foundation supporting New Orleans firefighters aims to first address one hurricane recovery sore point: More than two years after Katrina, little or no money from FEMA's infrastructure repair program has been put to work on destroyed or badly damaged city firehouses.
The New Orleans Firefighters Foundation will pressure officials in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mayor Ray Nagin's administration to wring repair money out of the Public Assistance grant program, said the new group's chairman, First NBC Bank President Ashton Ryan.
In the meantime, bankers will study creating a loan pool that could be tapped more immediately for fire station repairs, in anticipation of FEMA grants paying the money back, he said.
And firefighters and community groups, weary of waiting on the federal money, have moved forward on the assumption they may wait months or years longer before the city and FEMA get the job done.
"The firemen (in Lakeview) are literally selling T-shirts to raise money to help them fix the firehouse," said Bari Landry, president of the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association, who didn't attend the foundation news conference.
"You don't know where the FEMA money is, you don't know if anybody cares," she said. "The community cares."
'The money's available'
FEMA officials, responding to media inquiries, said they've reserved $9.1 million for building repairs in the fire department, but that their records show the city, which must obtain the money through the state, has drawn down just $63,000. The money would go to repairs or replacing contents at 32 fire stations, affecting nearly the entire system, they said.
"The money's available; it's on the table," said FEMA spokesman Bob Josephson. "It's time for the city to move forward with these repairs."
Nagin administration officials... [continues]
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