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Second Appeal Analysis
PA ID# 245-04200-00; Augusta-Richmond County
PW ID# (PW) 299 ; Debris Removal – Vegetative – Support Documentation
From February 10, 2014 through February 14, 2014, a severe ice storm created significant vegetative debris throughout Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia (Applicant). FEMA prepared two Project Worksheets (PW) for vegetative debris removal. PW 62 addressed removal efforts from February 10 to March 11, 2014 and PW 299 addressed removal efforts from March 12 through May 10, 2014. The second appeal decision pertains to the vegetative debris removal actions documented in PW 299, as FEMA’s first appeal decision resolved issues pertaining to PW 62.
The Applicant claimed it hauled 499,313.40 cubic yards (CY) of vegetative debris to the Fairgrounds debris management site (DMS) and 146,657 CY of vegetative debris to the Greenland DMS. During closeout, FEMA determined that a portion of the Applicant’s trucks had partial tailgates and concluded that the truck certifications for these trucks did not accurately reflect the CY capacity. In addition to the inaccurate truck certifications, FEMA identified discrepancies between the reported hauled in vegetative debris and hauled out mulched debris (mulch) volumes at both the Fairgrounds and the Greenland DMS locations. Based on the errors in the truck certifications, and discrepancies in the vegetative debris and mulch volume totals, FEMA utilized the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Hurricane Debris Estimating Model, a 4-to-1 ratio, to recalculate the vegetative debris volume hauled into the Fairgrounds and Greenland DMS locations. FEMA reduced the Applicant’s Fairgrounds DMS costs of $5,717,138.43 to $3,784,728.80 and the Greenland DMS costs of $1,679,222.65 to $861,269.00.
By letter dated December 22, 2014, the Applicant appealed FEMA’s $2,750,363.28 reduction in Public Assistance (PA) funding. In its appeal, the Applicant explained that it used a highly sophisticated electronic system to certify the debris trucks, and to track and monitor the CY of vegetative debris collected. The tracking system included the vegetative debris hauled into the DMS locations, where the Applicant reduced the debris by grinding it to mulch. The Applicant hauled the mulch out of the DMS locations to a landfill, which weighed the mulched vegetative debris. The Applicant argued that only 30 trucks – i.e., 17 percent of the total trucks used in the vegetative debris removal operation – had partial tailgates. The 30 partial-tailgated trucks hauled an estimated 5,033 loads of vegetative debris into the two DMS locations, and only 1,591 of these loads had their CY capacity impacted by the partial tailgates. Additionally, the Applicant argued it trained its debris monitors to consider the tailgate notches when making their load calls. Thus, the Applicant asserted that although the truck certifications’ total volume calculation did not account for the notches, based on the small number of load tickets produced by the partial tailgated trucks and the debris monitors training, there was either no discrepancy in the reported vegetative debris volume, or the impact to the total volume was minimal.
The Applicant also argued that FEMA inappropriately applied the USACE 4-to-1 vegetative debris reduction formula for the following three reasons. First, it is an unsuitable estimating tool for ice storm vegetative debris because USACE developed it for hurricane vegetative debris. Second, the 4-to-1 ratio was too low because the vegetative debris produced by the storm was predominately from softwoods which calls for a higher conversion ratio and other vegetative debris removal operations for the same disaster had reduction ratios ranging from 6-to-1 to 11-to-1. Third, the use of mulch to stabilize the two DMS locations explained the discrepancies between the hauled in and hauled out volumes. Finally, the Applicant asserted that after a review of its records, it identified 795.5 CY as the maximum amount of vegetative debris potentially affected by the partial tailgates, representing $12,003.50 in total costs.
On July 27, 2015, FEMA issued a Request for Information (RFI). The RFI asked the Applicant to provide additional information concerning the delta between the volume of vegetative debris collected and hauled into the DMS locations and the resulting volume of reduced mulch material. On August 25, 2015, the Applicant responded to the RFI. The Applicant reiterated its arguments, directed FEMA to the exhibits it previously submitted, and provided an Excel spreadsheet with hyperlinked data.
On July 7, 2016, the FEMA Region IV Regional Administrator (RA) partially granted the appeal. The RA determined that errors in the truck certifications and discrepancies in the vegetative debris volume totals did not allow for an accurate accounting of the total amount of raw vegetative debris hauled in and mulched. The RA accepted the Applicant’s explanation for the discrepancy between the hauled in debris and hauled out mulch volumes at the Fairground DMS location. Specifically, the Applicant explained the difference by asserting it used 37,246.93 CY of mulch to stabilize the Fairgrounds DMS location. The Applicant showed that the mulch used for stabilization, combined with the 82,741 CY of mulch hauled out, equaled 119,987.93 CY. The RA found that this constituted a 4.16-to-1 reduction rate, which fell within the USACE reduction formula’s predicted accuracy rate. Therefore, the RA determined as eligible the previously disallowed costs related to hauling debris to the Fairgrounds DMS.
For the Greenland DMS location, the RA restored only a small portion of the disallowed costs. The RA stated that the Applicant failed to provide a “similar rationale” explaining the discrepancy as it had for the Fairgrounds DMS location. The RA concluded that the vegetative debris taken to the Greenland DMS was likely of the same type taken to the Fairgrounds DMS and the Applicant had not presented sufficient evidence that the Greenland DMS had used mulch to stabilize the site. The RA applied the Fairgrounds DMS 4.16-to-1 reduction ratio to the actual mulch hauled from the Greenland DMS to find that the mulch likely resulted from 78,229 CY of hauled in vegetative debris. The RA increased the Greenland DMS reimbursement by $34,453.05, but reduced funding by $12,003.50 to account for the Applicant’s acknowledgment that the trucks with partial tailgates received load calls that exceeded the truck capacity.
On September 23, 2016, the Applicant appeals $783,500.60 for the disallowed costs at the Greenland DMS. The Applicant asserts on second appeal that the documentation it submitted in support of its request for PA funding is sufficient for payment based on the actual debris quantities it hauled into the Greenland DMS. The Applicant further argues that the USACE 4-to-1 ratio is not an absolute standard; rather, it is subject to a predicted accuracy of plus or minus 30 percent. The Applicant includes several affidavits as part of its second appeal to support its claim that the use of mulch to stabilize the DMS accounts for the delta between the volume of vegetative debris hauled in and the mulched vegetative debris hauled out of the Greenland DMS. The Applicant claims that two feet of mulch would have been spread for stabilization purposes and thus not measured with the haul-out, which comes to 8,093 CY of additional mulched debris not accounted for. As part of this assertion, the Applicant claims a “corrected ratio” of 5.45 to 1 for the Greenland DMS. The Applicant argues that the RA’s further reduction by $12,003.50 was duplicative. In a letter dated September 28, 2016, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency expresses support for the Applicant’s Second Appeal.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance (Stafford) Act authorizes FEMA to provide assistance to meet immediate threats to life and property resulting from a major disaster. FEMA may reimburse debris removal efforts that are in the public interest. The applicant is responsible, for ensuring that the claimed debris removal activities are in accordance with contract specifications and other guidance, and that reimbursement claims are for appropriate costs. An applicant must supply documentation to support its request for PA funding for debris clearance, removal, and disposal work. When an applicant materially fails to comply with any term of an award, FEMA may disallow all or part of the grant award.
Although the Applicant indicated on first appeal that its contractors used mulch for site management at the Greenland DMS, it did not substantiate this claim with the exhibits submitted on first appeal or the information accompanying the RFI Response. PW 299 identified apparent discrepancies with the Greenland DMS as grounds for reducing funding. However, the Applicant acknowledges that it “did not present a detailed calculation for Greenland as part of the First Appeal,” though it did so for the Fairgrounds DMS. In addition, the Final RFI specifically identified and requested information to justify the difference between the volume of vegetative debris collected and hauled into the DMS locations and the resulting volume of reduced mulch material – i.e., the delta. Because the Applicant failed to support its first appeal with substantiating documentation, the RA appropriately exercised her discretionary enforcement authority in applying the Fairgrounds DMS 4.16-to-1 ratio to the actual mulch hauled from the Greenland DMS to find 78,229 CY of vegetative debris eligible for reimbursement.
However, in light of the RA relying on the volume of mulch hauled from the Greenland DMS to calculate eligible amounts hauled in, deducting an additional $12,003.50 “as an efficiency” for partial-tailgate trucks that hauled in vegetative debris constitutes a partially duplicative reduction. For this reason, $12,003.50 in funding will be restored.
The Applicant did not provide adequate documentation on first appeal to account for the discrepancies between the debris hauled to and the mulch hauled from the Greenland DMS. Accordingly, the RA appropriately exercised her discretion in finding 78,229 CY of vegetative debris as eligible. However, $12,003.50 in funding that the RA reduced on first appeal to account for partial tailgated trucks will be restored because the reduction is duplicative. Accordingly, this second appeal is partially granted
 Project Worksheet (PW) 62, Augusta-Richmond County, Version 0, at 1 (June 27, 2014); see also PW 299, Augusta-Richmond County, Version 0, at 1 (June 27, 2014).
 PW 299, Augusta-Richmond County, Version 1, at 2 – 3 (December 18, 2014). FEMA did not obligate PW 299, Augusta-Richmond County (Version 1) until August 4, 2016; however, due to similarities in issues between PW 62, Augusta-Richmond County (Version 1) and PW 299, Augusta-Richmond County (Version 1), FEMA nevertheless consolidated the appeals of both PWs, at the Applicant’s request. See, e.g., Letter from Mayor, City of Augusta–Richmond Cty., to Pub. Assistance Branch Chief, FEMA Region IV, at 2 (Aug. 25, 2015) [hereinafter RFI Response].
 PW 299, Augusta-Richmond County (Version 1), at 3 (citing Public Assistance Debris Management Guide, FEMA 325, at 87 and Appendix B at 5 (July 2007)).
 Letter from Mayor, City of Augusta–Richmond Cty. through Dir., Ga. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, to Acting Reg’l Adm’r, FEMA Region IV (Dec. 22, 2014) [hereinafter Applicant’s First Appeal]. This analysis only presents arguments relevant to the second appeal; thus, it omits arguments relevant to procurement of the debris removal contracts, as the first appeal resolved these issues.
 Letter from Acting Recovery Div. Dir., FEMA Region IV, to Mayor, City of Augusta–Richmond Cty. and Dir., Ga. Emergency Mgmt. Agency Homeland Sec. (July 27, 2015).
 See generally RFI Response.
 Letter from Reg’l Adm’r, FEMA Region IV, to Dir., Ga Emergency Mgmt. Agency Homeland Sec. (July 7, 2016) [hereinafter First Appeal Decision].
 First Appeal Decision, at 11.
 Id. at 11-12 (PW 299 had only allowed costs associated with 75,220 CY of debris).
 Letter from Mayor, City of Augusta–Richmond Cty. through Dir., Ga. Emergency Mgmt. Agency and through Reg’l Adm’r, FEMA Region IV, to Acting Assistant Adm’r, Recovery Directorate, FEMA HQ (Sept. 23, 2016) [hereinafter Applicant’s Second Appeal].
 The Administrative Record closed upon issuance of the First Appeal Decision; accordingly, FEMA will not consider the three affidavits the Applicant submitted on second appeal.
 Applicant’s Second Appeal, at 17-18.
 Letter from Pub. Assistance Div. Dir., Ga. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, to Reg’l Adm’r, FEMA Region IV (Sept. 28, 2016).
 Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance (Stafford) Act of 1988 § 403(a), 42 U.S.C. § 5170b(a) (2007).
 Title 44 Code of Federal Regulation (44 C.F.R.) § 206.224(a) (2013).
 Debris Monitoring Guide, FEMA 327, at 5 (Oct. 2010).
 Applicant’s Second Appeal, at 8 – 9 (citing Applicant’s First Appeal, at 27).
 PW 299, Augusta-Richmond County (Version 1), at 3 (discussing discrepancies at Greenland DMS).
 Applicant’s Second Appeal, at 17.
 First Appeal Decision, at 14