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Second Appeal Letter
PA ID# 019-80815-00; City of Westlake
PW ID# Project Worksheet 1601; Tree Limb Hanger Cuts
March 14, 2008
Colonel Thomas Kirkpatrick (Retired)
State Coordinating Officer
Governors Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
415 North 15th Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Re: Second AppealCity of Westlake, PA ID 019-80815-00, Tree Limb Hanger Cuts
FEMA-1607-DR-LA, Project Worksheet (PW) 1601
Dear Colonel Kirkpatrick:
This letter is in response to the referenced second appeal submitted by the City of Westlake (Applicant), dated May 8, 2007. The Applicant is appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agencys (FEMA) partial denial of its first appeal for reimbursement of costs associated with the removal of hanging tree limbs.
On September 23, 2005, hurricane force winds severely damaged and destroyed trees throughout the city. Subsequently, hanging limbs from damaged trees posed a threat to public health and safety and improved property. The Applicant claimed that its debris contractor removed a total of 31,572 hanging limbs at $80/limb for a cost of $2,525,760. In order to verify the Applicants claim, FEMA audited load tickets from 10 percent (3.5 square miles) of the city. Load tickets were sorted by street name. Only tickets that referred to a single street or two adjoining streets were used in the audit. Following the audit, FEMA reduced the number of eligible hanging limbs by 69.3 percent from 31,572 to 9,377. FEMA approved the rate of $50/limb and obligated $468,850, in PW 1601, for hanging limbs.
The Applicant submitted its first appeal on August 16, 2006. The Applicant maintained that the $80/limb rate was reasonable and that all 31,572 hanging limbs should be eligible for reimbursement. The Regional Director concluded that given prevailing conditions at the time the work was completed, $80/limb met the prudent person standard (OMB Circular A-87). Therefore, the Regional Director partially approved the Applicants first appeal and another version of PW 1601 was prepared to increase the eligible cost by $281,310. Based on FEMAs audit and the Applicants inaccurate records, the Regional Director denied the claim that an additional 22,195 limbs were eligible.
The Applicant submitted a second appeal on May 8, 2007, maintaining that 31,572 hanging limbs are eligible and challenging the methodology of the audit. The Applicant claimed that it was not present or involved in the audit. However, the Applicants monitoring firm, Meyer and Associates, provided the load tickets that were examined. The monitoring firms representative, Byron Racca, was present during field inspections. Moreover, the Applicants director of public works declined FEMA regional staffs invitation to attend the field inspections. The Applicant
also claims that many tree cuts, which were made in October, were not visible when the inspection was conducted from January 31, 2006, to February 7, 2006, because leaves had started to grow back. We have been informed that the trees were bare at the time of inspection. Furthermore, we contacted FEMA regional staff in order to review their methodology and understand their results.
We have reviewed all information submitted with the Applicants second appeal and have determined that the Regional Directors decision in the first appeal is consistent with Public Assistance Program regulations and policies. Therefore, the appeal is denied.
Please inform the Applicant of my decision. This determination constitutes the final decision on this matter pursuant to 44 CFR §206.206.
Carlos J. Castillo
Disaster Assistance Directorate
cc: William Peterson
FEMA Region VI