Regan giddy over poor performance collecting FEMA debt

JOHN P REGAN SR

The City of St. Augustine reported to Historic City News that although they still are trying to collect millions of dollars lost to Hurricane Matthew, the first of two deadly hurricanes to devastate our coastal community, they have recently received a relatively small payment for Hurricane Irma from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ten days ago, Meredith Breidenstein, Director of Budget and Management, reported reimbursement requests for Hurricane Irma were expected to total approximately $7.4 million. Today, the city downgraded that, saying that the preliminary estimate totals $6.5 million.

“For Hurricane Irma, we have two of our projects in the system. One of those has been obligated,” Breidenstein previously reported. “This payment of $213,000 is reimbursement for police officer overtime and equipment usage during the second storm.”

The City’s total claim for Hurricane Irma is not yet finalized because Breidenstein’s office and others are still working on the development of projects. The City continues to compile and submit requests for reimbursements resulting from Hurricane Irma.

“A couple of hundred-thousand dollars is pocket change out of $6.5 million of year-old Hurricane Irma debt,” Historic City News editor Michael Gold observed. “The city manager is all light-headed because he collected less than 3.5% — considerably less than that, if the original $7.4 million-dollar loss estimate was closer to the truth. All because he is one of the first ten cities to be paid anything? Really?”

City Manager John Regan defended the long overdue collection of disaster recovery funds from the government. “There is extensive, detailed documentation, and reporting, needed to receive these funds,” Regan said in a media release. Hurricane Matthew first struck St Augustine in October 2016.

Breidenstein told reporters, “We speak to FEMA multiple times per week about our projects; all of which are being worked by either City Staff, FEMA, or the State.” She also stated that her office speaks to the State weekly about the nearly two-year-old debts from Hurricane Matthew.

“For Hurricane Matthew, we have all fifteen of our projects in the system. Eleven of the fifteen projects have been obligated and ten of those eleven projects have either been paid, or partially paid,” Breidenstein summarized. “The remaining large projects yet to be obligated are the Marina repairs (the breakwater) and the Lighthouse Fishing Pier.”

The City of St Augustine’s total claim for Hurricane Matthew is $13.3 million. The City has collected $1,736,176 of $4.2 million in various claims for Hurricane Matthew. An additional, specified $9.1 million has been claimed for the lift station project. Although the lift station project is obligated, those funds are yet to be spent by the City. Reimbursement will follow down the road.

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