UI officials announce filing three appeals to FEMA

BY BETH BRATSOS | APRIL 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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CEDAR FALLS — University of Iowa officials told the state Board of Regents Thursday they decided to appeal three funding decisions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during a discussion of flood renovation.

Doug True, the UI senior vice president for Finance and Operations, said officials appealed FEMA's decision to deny qualification for $800,000 in repair funding at the IMU to bring the building in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"We believe [the denial] is not right," he said. "[The Americans with Disabilities Act] is a very important requirement to us at the university. There's not a question of whether the work gets done, it's how it gets paid."

True also said another appeal was made for $16 million that FEMA has not paid toward work on the UI Power Plant. An additional appeal was made for further mitigation work on the power plant and a nearby tunnel system.

Outside the appeals, officials were confident in the university's flood recovery process under FEMA.

Rod Lehnertz, UI Facilities Management director of planning design and construction, said he doesn't expect any of the projects — including the replacement of Hancher and the Music Building and recovery of the IMU, Mayflower Residence Hall, and the Theater Building, among others — to be ahead of schedule.

"If anything, there would be some additional review [from FEMA] that would slow things down," he said.

Lehnertz said the recovery projects come with their own set of challenges, including subtle disagreements between UI officials and FEMA officials on how best to approach recovery and the projected goals of each project.

"FEMA is a major funding source, and we have to come to an agreement where they see it the way we see it," he said.

An update in Thursday's presentation notified the regents that the projected date of completion for the IMU project was being pushed back from August 2014 to December 2014.

Yet the replacement of the Hancher and the Music Building are on schedule. The regents have approved designs for both projects and will soon go through the bid selection process, Lehnertz said.

"These schedules we expect to hold unless federal rules change that," he said. "We continue to work closely with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security."

The regents also approved an extension on the maturity date of UI's $30 million flood-recovery and mitigation bond, originally set to mature in 2009. Wells Fargo, the association originally selected as the successful bidder for the project, agreed to extend the note and its revolving line of credit until 2015.

Because the original bond still has $5 million unused, the university now has access to a total $35 million in Wells Fargo bonds to use for flood-recovery expenses.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the recovery process is following a suitable time frame given the magnitude of the 2008 flood. The eventual bill for the whole flood, he said, will be somewhere between $900 million and $1 billion.

"And that is larger than the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It's an incredible number of issues to deal with," he said. "The process has been, I think, eye-opening for many people to be involved with, but it continues to move forward."

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