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UI and state officials voice appreciation following FEMA funding approval

BY STACEY MURRAY | OCTOBER 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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Music may once again ring in a venue called Hancher. The auditorium and several other buildings damaged in the 2008 flood will receive renewed federal support for the construction of their replacements.

Iowa lawmakers and UI officials applauded the Department of Homeland Security following its decision to back Federal Emergency Management Agency’s choice to replace Hancher Auditorium, Voxman Music Building, Clapp Recital Hall, and the Art Building instead of reversing the funds — something previously recommended by the Office of the Inspector General.

“This final action on our replacement buildings clears the way for construction — and we are ready.  Our students and campus can now move forward with certainty that they will have the facilities they need,” University of Iowa President Sally Mason said in a statement. 

Iowa’s senators and congressmen voiced their approval for the department’s long-awaited decision and its effects beyond the realm of Iowa City.

“This is an important decision for both the University of Iowa and for the surrounding community,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in a statement.  “Going forward, I intend to work to change the underlying law so that FEMA decisions become final more quickly, assuring that this period of long uncertainty does not happen in the future.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said in a statement he hopes the UI can continue with recovery effort with FEMA’s help and support.

“The University of Iowa is now able to move forward with its recovery from the flood and will be stronger and more resilient going into the future,” he said.

The 2008 flood damaged more than one-sixth of the UI campus, including the Hancher, Voxman/Clapp, and the Art Building.

The UI then received $6.7 million from FEMA for the demolition of three buildings damaged by the 2008 flood, with $5 million of the funding going to Hancher and the Voxman/Clapp and $1.7 million going to the Art Building.

FEMA officials dedicated $386 million to build a new auditorium, new music building, and new art facility.

Following this pledge, the renovations hit a speed bump of their own.

On June 19, the Department of Homeland Security released an audit recommending the decision to replace the flood-damaged buildings be reversed.

The audit’s goal was to determine if the FEMA Region VII correctly applied the “50 percent rule” when it decided to fund the replacement of the Hancher, Voxman/Clapp, and the old Art Building.

The “50 percent rule” refers to FEMA’s ability to fund replacement instead of repair when the repair costs exceed 50 percent of the replacement costs.

Following the audit, the department recommended FEMA reverse its funding, but now formally supports FEMA’s choice to continue work with the UI.

According to the state Board of Regents’ timeline, the construction will be completed on the flood-damaged campus buildings within the next four years.

The new auditorium will be complete in December 2015, two years after officials’ anticipated completion of the new Art Building.

Despite many adversities, officials commend the work done by the UI and Iowa lawmakers.

“This is a very good outcome,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa said in a statement. “It’s a tribute to the strong case made by the university and other state officials in Iowa.”


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