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Distressing government failures in Coralville flood rebuilding

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 09, 2010 7:20 AM

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Though the 2008 floodwaters have receded, some of the resulting complications are still with us.

The natural disaster destroyed the Coralville Parks & Recreation and Transit building. The two departments were temporarily relocated to separate city buildings until federal funding could be used to build new facilities. Two and a half years later, the departments are still in their temporary buildings.

This is not because of a lack of funding, resources, or land, however, but because of government inefficiency. This bureaucratic inertia is inexcusable; we call on government at all levels to expedite this process and complete the building.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency funds the temporary housing facilities; a new 37,000-square-foot, $6.5 million building to house the departments is still in the works. FEMA approved funding for the new building in 2009. The city of Coralville was also awarded a grant for the project from the Iowa Department of Transportation. However, there is still no official start date for the project.

"There's been a long delay on FEMA's part," Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth told the Editorial Board. "We had everything together."

There has been much back and forth between Coralville and FEMA throughout the process. The city's first contract bid for the new building construction was not approved because of delays. The city then had to reauthorize the funding through Congress and resubmit a request to FEMA, because the funding had expired. The funding was again approved, and a second contract bid was not accepted until October. The city has until Dec. 14 to avoid being denied a second time.

The city received an approval letter late last week from FEMA's Iowa Recovery Office, which authorized the city to move forward with the construction of the new building. The city will meet with the Department of Homeland Security later this week to show FEMA's approval and the new contract bid. The final steps are now contingent upon paperwork getting through to the contractor and the contractor's approval. If the city acts before Dec. 14 and gets contractor approval, groundbreaking would take place in January, with the majority of the work to be completed in the spring of 2011.

FEMA's funding for the temporary housing of the departments, whether the contract bid goes through or not, will expire in February 2011. A representative from the FEMA Recovery Office in Iowa said it does not have record of a request for a funding extension for the temporary facilities from Coralville.

Hayworth said the city has not yet submitted a request, because it is still three months from the expiration date of the funding. The FEMA Recovery Office said the city can send in the paperwork at any time and it will consider any request that is placed.

This bureaucratic back and forth is not conducive to flood recovery. Governmental lapses such as these undermine citizens' trust in government. If we can't trust government at all levels to work together to rebuild after natural disasters, when can we? This protracted ordeal is distressing and inexcusable.

The city has to deal with red tape and bureaucratic nonsense. FEMA has to deal with a sluggish city administration. Both are then hindered by ill-managed federal-to-state activity. Iowans suffered enough during the flood. It is time government officials on the federal and local levels got their act together and served the needs of Iowans.


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