Tonawanda News — At that point Tobe said the county simply refused to pay, challenging federal auditors to drop the issue or face a court challenge.
Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson said Friday the logjam was broken after a face-to-face meeting between the county executive and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was arranged at the behest of New York Sen. Charles Schumer in late June. Anderson said the meeting, held in Schumer’s office, gave local officials a chance to make their case, in person, that the various drafts of the audit were badly off base.
The end result was FEMA seeking to recoup only $705,000 — a figure county officials said they were content paying to put the issue to rest rather than keep fighting and potentially have to pay more.
“The county was sort of in the position where we felt there might be a more substantial payment they would be looking for,” Anderson said.
The precise nature of the $705,000 in contested spending wasn’t immediately available, nor was the final revised version of FEMA’s audit. Poloncarz said in a statement county officials agreed on some finer points of the audit from the start and were willing to refund money where legitimate mistakes were made. He called the $705,000 figure “appropriate.”
A FEMA representative couldn’t be reached to comment Friday.
Anderson said the June meeting between Poloncarz and Fugate was the turning point in the whole saga.
“That’s when FEMA decided they need to look more into what Erie County was saying,” Anderson said. “The conversation (changed) after that. FEMA rechecked their audit and here we are today.”
Poloncarz credited Schumer for interceding on the county’s behalf.
“This is a positive development for the people of Erie County and would not have been possible without the strong advocacy of our Sen. Charles E. Schumer,” Poloncarz said in a press release. “Sen. Schumer is a forceful champion for our community and I greatly appreciate his efforts to assist us in rebutting the illogical recommendations proffered by the Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General’s Office.”
Though it lives on in Western New York lore as a where-I-was-when tale of woe for many residents who endured it, Anderson said he’s happy it’s finally a closed case.
“It’s time to put the October 2006 storm finally, totally behind us,” he said.
Contact Managing Editor Eric DuVall at 693-1000, ext. 4112 or on Twitter @EricRDuVall.