FEMA seeks $495,000 refund from Delray Beach

November 12th, 2008

2004 hurricane debris at issue

By Maria Herrera

South Florida Sun-Sentinel--November 12, 2008

Delray Beach

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says the city owes it $495,000.

The culprit: Debris left behind when Hurricane Frances swept through South Florida in 2004.

Assistant City Attorney Brian Shutt told the City Commission on Tuesday that FEMA wants to be reimbursed for the $495,000 that Delray Beach overpaid the contractor that did the cleanup.

"In 2007, FEMA performed a final audit and determined we had an underrun of $495,000," Shutt said. "We filed an appeal, but we just heard in July that they denied the appeal."

Shutt said the city hired D&J Enterprises to remove hurricane debris. Two years later, when reviewing plans for the cleanup after Hurricane Wilma, the city staff found that D&J had overbilled the city.

"The contractor had not billed us correctly," Finance Director Joe Safford said Tuesday. "He based the cubic yardage going into the landfill on the cubic yardage coming in."

Safford said the amount of mulched debris that ended up in the landfill should have been only a third of the amount of debris the contractor collected throughout the city.

The difference is basically what FEMA wants reimbursed.

Now the city has to file a second appeal, Safford said, and sue the contractor at the same time before the five-year statute of limitations expires.

City staff members were not hopeful.

"The way FEMA responded to the first appeal, I don't think they will be willing to reverse it," Safford said.