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Working with FEMA so you can get paid, and keep it

bris clean-up. FEMA refused to pay the contractor the amount owed according to the terms of the contract. After three years of litigation (and about $75,000 in at- torneys’ fees), Scott County settled for about $200,000, paid from the County General Fund. Tis article is writ- ten to warn all Arkansas county judges — so history does not repeat itself.


Emergency Status: When your county suffers a disaster and emergency response is needed, without question the first priority is taking care of life and property. FEMA rec- ognizes this situation but ... the matter quickly turns to a non-emergency clean-up operation. Tat’s where FEMA gets real sticky about its rules. WARNING: Follow the FEMA rules, or FEMA will allow you to suffer the conse- quences of your own choice not to follow the FEMA rules.

After the Initial Emergency: After the first response, the financial reality of a disaster looms large. Planning and pre- paring for financial cost recovery aspects of a disaster will pay dividends. Listen to the advice and warnings by FEMA and state Office of Emergency Services officials. Do not take off on your own. Do not be a pioneer. Find out about and follow FEMA rules.

Private General Contractors: Tere are two basic ways

to proceed with clean-up: 1) the county can contract with a third party to serve as the contractor for the clean-up op- eration or 2) the county can serve as its own self-contractor and subcontract with various persons or entities to do the work. Do not sign a contract with a private general contrac- tor to oversee the county’s clean-up work for the county without knowing the FEMA rules. For example, FEMA rules require competitive bidding if the county chooses to contract with a third party for the non-emergency portion of the clean-up work. Sole-source contracts are prohibited. If you fail to follow FEMA’s rules, FEMA will refuse to pay the money and your county could end up in the same situ- ation Scott County found itself in after the 2000 ice storm. Generally, it seems to work better when the county serves as its own general contractor for non-emergency clean-up op- erations, and then contracts with sub-contractors for tasks as needed. Tere are certainly many qualified disaster clean- up contractors and sub-contractors. Just make sure you


ollowing the ice storm of 2000, Scott County was sued for more than $1 million by a pri- vate contractor that alleged that the county owed the money by virtue of a contract for de-

know and follow the rules. Include in any contract with any contractor an agreement that the contract will agree to accept as full and final pay- ment the amount FEMA chooses for reimbursement. Tat way, the county will not end up stuck with a deficiency.

Document, Document, Doc- ument: After

a major disaster

MIKE RAINWATER Risk Management Legal Counsel

strikes, you will be dealing with FEMA for a long time. FEMA staff that you will be working with will change. FEMA rules will change. Items that have been approved at one level will be denied at another level. Te only protection you have is to document everything that is humanly possible to docu- ment. Else, you may not be able to prove that a later FEMA audit is shorting the county from money needed to pay for the clean-up costs incurred by the county. Te county needs to be able to prove how many cubic yards were in each load the county wants FEMA to pay for. Tis means an account- ing system must be established on the front end — so you can prove it on the back end.

Pictures: Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Estab- lish an inspection site at each disposal location where each load of debris can be recorded. Use a video camera to film each load coming through. Te same is true for emergency repair work. Take pictures of the roadways being cleared as an emergency. Put disposable cameras in vehicles that might be called out to do emergency repairs and train people to use them. While you’re at it, put a whole emergency fi- nancial kit in a baggy in the glove compartments of your vehicles. It can include a disposable camera and a couple of forms where staff can list the location of the emergency work, what staff are on location between what hours, and whether any equipment was used. A picture and this kind of on-the-spot documentation will be worth its weight in gold five years later when an auditor asks you what happened at a specific site.

Account Codes: Set up an emergency accounting code

structure. Even a rudimentary coding system with a code for each department or division for charging time and costs for an emergency is a good idea. As the emergency response

See “FEMA” on Page 24 >>> 23

County Law Update

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