Tonawanda News


March 6, 2013

OUR VIEW: FEMA audit way off the mark

Tonawanda News — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is supposed to help Americans respond to crises, not create them — but that’s precisely what FEMA has done in demanding Erie County taxpayers give back $48 million in aid from the 2006 October storm.

An audit by FEMA’s inspector general contends $48 million given to Erie County to respond to the storm may have been misspent because officials gave preference to local contractors to help remove the thousands of downed trees in the storm’s wake. This, despite verbal permission from FEMA representatives at the time, attested to by politicians of both parties.

They also point to federal laws that permit municipalities to use a local-first approach.

Federal law isn’t really necessary, though. All you need is a dose of common sense to see why prizing local contractors makes sense. If priorities are in order, officials shouldn’t be pinching pennies when tens of thousands are without power, roads are impassable and the infirm need access to medicine and medical care.

Local contractors are already here so why should residents sit in their cold, dark homes waiting for crews from who-knows-where to arrive and start the work?

Given FEMA’s track record perhaps the obvious bears repeating: The first priority in disaster recovery is recovering. In October 2006, that meant getting trees off people’s houses, out of the roads and turning the lights back on.

Erie County isn’t blameless in this fiasco, however. FEMA points out of the $48 million it’s seeking back, $9 million is for work that wasn’t documented at all. County officials said the records have been lost. They can win an argument on the merits that they used the contractors best suited for the job, but they should be able to say — and show — how they spent the money.

Text Only
  • DuVall, Eric mug.jpg DUVALL: In defense of the Common Core

    They've become the two dirtiest words in education, but the Common Core is very much worth defending.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • tucker, barb.jpg TUCKER: Bits and pieces from out and about Ever since it was restored and opened, the Hotel @ Lafayette in downtown Buffalo has fascinated me. Last Monday, the Preservation Buffalo Niagara offered a tour of the hotel led by developer Rocco Termini.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug - adamczyk.jpg ADAMCZYK: Kenmore is a village made of bricks Buffalo and surrounding environs have brick buildings galore, often in the process of repurpose. Whole neighborhoods made of brick await development, redevelopment, gentrification, whatever wand will be waved at them to make them function again. Structures here tend not to be razed; they fall down occasionally but typically simply stand and wait.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • leffler, scott.jpg LEFFLER: Justice is blind -- and deaf and dumb I've always been intrigued by the concept of justice. I say concept because it really seems more theoretical to me than practical. One man's justice is another man's nightmare.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • confer, bob.jpg CONFER: Don't go soft on teenage criminals

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • DuVall, Eric mug.jpg For Sabres, more suffering is on tap

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • tucker, barb.jpg TUCKER: Taking down trees 'disheartening' Several readers have questioned the City of Tonawanda's tree removal program. An email to Jenna Koch, who represents the third ward and checks into any query on the city, explained the program.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug - adamczyk.jpg [Duplicate] ADAMCZYK: Letterman was on my side The announcement that Mr. Letterman is retiring from his groundbreaking television program, sometime in 2015, is already old news, but it gives opportunity to ponder a few truisms about history and modern life.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Leffler Mug 041114 [Duplicate] LEFFLER: 'Need to know' a double-edged sword Inquisitive doesn't begin to describe me. I must know everything. About everything. I hate being in the dark. I guess that's what makes my career choice so very obvious. I think "must know everything" is at the top of most journalists' trait lists.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wallace, Amy BW mug WALLACE: Airplane coverage has gone awry I don't know about you, but I am so sick of the cable news stations' constant coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo