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Projects and Process

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In a recent committee meeting, it was reviewed that St. Bernard Parish Government has approximately 100 million dollars ($100,000,000.00) of estimated project costs to repair public buildings and infrastructure, including sewerage consolidation projects. At a 90% FEMA and 10% Local cost share, it seems very doable, especially if the state’s pledge to pick up the 10% cost share is realized. The 100 million dollars does not include payment of unpaid demolition/debris and sewer hauling costs that together are somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 to 180 million dollars. The Building Mitigation Committee made up of Parish Council members and top level Administrative Department Heads have been meeting since mid 2006 developing a Recovery Plan for the public infrastructure projects. The difficult balance placed on the administrative side of government is to continue handling day-to-day operational duties while having to address all of the disaster related meetings, project monitoring, and planning related to recovery projects. The limited capacity (meaning time constraints per person, not ability) creates internal bottlenecks that slow the progress from a project being approved by the Building Mitigation Committee and subsequently by the Parish Council to sitting on the appropriate FEMA/State level office until funds are obligated and released to actual work starting. Recently, the Parish Council partially reinstated the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness budget as a means to not only work to develop a plan for the numerous emergency situations we potentially face, hurricane season included, but to lend a very concentrated effort to add capacity to the Recovery process. This will require intimate cooperation between several administrative departments and the Parish Council to move projects along.

Much of the delay in getting on with more of the work that must be done is that this work and the payment for this work is directly connected to FEMA approving projects, obligating funds, and the State Office of Emergency Preparedness releasing funds. It has become no secret that FEMA sponsored projects can take very extended periods of time to get paid- the result is fewer and fewer contractors are willing to roll the dice in FEMA sponsored projects. The back side of this issue is that fewer bidders means higher bids which means FEMA questions the costs and often determine them to be unreasonable, which leads to more delays in projects actually starting.

While the Parish Council has no authority to prepare bids or negotiate project scopes and related costs, the Building Mitigation Committee has been an avenue for council member input to the process. And while the 2006 immediate directives from the committee were water and sewerage repairs which were consistent with emergency responses from public works, several building projects, street lighting and signage, street repair projects, recreational facilities, and others have also been approved to move forward to the design phase. The projects that have been approved and are at various levels of work can be viewed at the parish website:

Internally, we must continue to push the capacity of our resources so that the agencies outside of our control never rest until the obstacles are removed.

God Bless,
Craig Taffaro, Jr.


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