Riegel: FEMA failures and flaws

    While most of us were enjoying the recent holidays from the comfort of our own homes—or, at least, those of our relatives or friends—some 1,300 families in the area were still holed up in local motels, notes Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column.

    “They’ve been living like this for nearly five months now, ever since the August flood,” Riegel writers. “No one can say with certainty how much longer they’ll be displaced or where they’ll go when the FEMA money runs out.”

    It’s a difficult problem that state officials are trying to deal with on a case-by-case basis, she says. But the issue of what to do with displaced flood victims is just one piece of what is turning out to be a complicated puzzle, Riegel says.

    “Nearly five months after the disaster, not only is it unclear where those living in motels will ultimately go, but there are still questions about where to develop group sites for FEMA’s Mobile Housing Units—the updated, expensive and cumbersome version of the infamous FEMA trailers,” she writes. “After hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and Superstorm Sandy, you’d think local, state and federal officials would have figured this out by now.”

    It’s clear, Riegel says, that a lack of communication between federal, state and local officials continues to be an ongoing problem, as it has been with previous disasters. For example, she points to Metro Councilman Scott Wilson, who only found out about an MHU group site planned in his district on South Choctaw Drive from concerned residents of the nearby Rushmore subdivision who didn’t want a FEMA trailer park in their backyard.

    “No one ever does,” Riegel writes. “Helping flood victims is fine as long as they don’t set up temporary shelter on vacant lots in your neighborhood. Never mind that back in October the Metro Council approved the Choctaw site and several others as potential locations for FEMA trailer parks.”

    Wilson tells Riegel the problem is that the South Choctaw site was never definite and that, more importantly, FEMA never followed up with him to let him know they were planning to develop it, something he says the agency agreed to do.

    “FEMA told me they’d get back with me before doing anything,” Wilson says. “They never did.”

    Read the full column. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.  

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