NOV 08 2113
Kurt HardinGovernor’s Authorized RepresentativeDivision of Emergency ManagementWashington Military DepartmentBuilding 20/MS: TA-20Camp Murray, Washington 98430-5122
RE: Second Appeal: Camano Island Fire and Rescue District, Seismic Retrofit of Terry’s Corner Fire Station 1-3, DR-1825-WA, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)Project #3-R Dear Mr. Hardin:
This is in response to your letter dated March 1, 2013, to the Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration through the FEMA Region X Administrator, which transmitted the referenced appeal. Camano Island Fire and Rescue, Island County Fire District #1 (District) is appealing the Regional Administrator’s decision to deny $264,140 for the seismic retrofit of Camano Island Fire and Rescue Terry’s Corner Fire Station 1-3 located at 811 North Sunrise Boulevard, Camano Island, Washington 98282.
On September 11, 2009, the District requested HMGP funds to seismic retrofit Terry’s Corner Fire Station 1-3, a rural fire station built in 1975. FEMA approved the seismic retrofit project on September 2, 2010, for $336,308 Federal share. The approved scope of work consisted of a seismic retrofit of the walls, roof and vehicle bay doors of the existing fire station.
In August of 2011, State of Washington Emergency Management Division (Grantee) staff notified FEMA that the District had demolished fire station down to the slab foundation and had started to construct a new fire station. The Grantee did not inform or seek prior approval from Region X mitigation staff regarding the District’s intention to revise the approved project. As a result, the FEMA Region X Mitigation Director terminated the subgrant award on October 19, 2011, because the District did not comply with the approved scope of work and the Conditions of Approval contained in the award letter of September 2, 2010.
On February 28, 2012, the Grantee submitted a first appeal letter to FEMA. The Grantee supported the District’s appeal and agreed the project that the District implemented was consistent with the FEMA approved scope of work. Further, the Grantee stated that the project constituted structural retrofitting of an existing building, not new construction. The District completed construction of the new fire station in June 2012 at a cost of $1.8 million. The acting Regional Administrator denied the District’s first appeal for full project funding on November 15, 2012, for the same reasons the Mitigation Director originally terminated the subgrant. However, the acting Regional Administrator authorized reimbursement of $72,168 Federal share for eligible pre- and post-award costs, largely related to project design and site evaluation conducted before the District demolished the fire station.
The District filed a second appeal with the State in a letter dated January 4, 2013. The District argues that the completed project was a seismic upgrade to the existing fire station; therefore, it was not required to obtain additional approval from FEMA before completing the project. Accordingly, the District contends that it is eligible for full reimbursement of the Federal share of project cost contained in its project application. The Grantee concurred with the District and formally filed the second appeal with FEMA on March 1, 2013. The Grantee requests that FEMA reimburse the remaining $264,140 of the original award of $336,308.
There are two issues in this appeal: (1) Is the completed structure consistent with the goal of the project application and the FEMA approved scope of work? (2) Did the Grantee comply with the term of the grant agreement that requires it to notify FEMA if it changed the approved scope of work?
The following facts are not in dispute: (1) The District demolished the existing structure and built a new structure on the existing slab. (2) The completed project provides increased earthquake protection to firefighter and emergency medical personnel stationed at the structure. (3) The District contemplated other modernization activities while performing seismic retrofit activities. (4) The District submitted project plans for the mitigation project to the Grantee before demolishing the existing structure. (5) The Grantees did not submit a request to FEMA to change the approved scope of work for the project. (6) The District requested reimbursement of the Federal share of estimated project cost listed in the project application. The District’s project application included the following synopsis of the project, “…The goal of this project is to improve earthquake survivability and mission availability by retrofitting the structure of the station to be compliant with ASCE Standard 31-03, “Seismic Evaluation of Existing Buildings, Immediate Occupancy Performance Level. Additionally, while the structure is exposed for seismic work, the Fire District with modernize the fire station to meet current and projected health and employee safety standards, improve the utilization of operational space, improve habitability, and improve fire and EMS response times.”
Section 4.11 of the project application states, “The completed project will provide a modern structure capable of increased earthquake protection for the firefighter and emergency medical personnel stationed there.”
Section 5.2 of the project application states, “This project will improve an existing structure that already has required utilities and access to the adjacent county road. Additionally, since the project will not expand the footprint of the structure, there is no need to disturb the surrounding ground…The following major work element list is based on a similar retrofit project currently underway at Station1-2 on Camano Island.
The acting Regional Administrator cited several sections of the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Unified Guidance (HMA Guidance) dated June 16, 2009 in response to the first appeal:
Part III, Section D.1.1, Mitigation Projects; Structural Retrofitting of Existing Buildings: Modification to the structural elements of a building to reduce or eliminate the risk of future damage and to protect inhabitants. The structural elements of a building that are essential to protect in order to prevent damage include foundations, loadbearing walls, beams, columns, building envelop, structural floors, and roofs, and the connections between these elements.
Part II, Section D.2, Ineligible Activities: Projects constructing new buildings or facilities, with the exception of safe room construction and mitigation reconstruction.
Issue 1: Is the completed structure consistent with the goal of the project application and the FEMA approved scope of work?
FEMA’s definition of and guidance on structural retrofit of existing buildings do not provide any specific threshold of structural modifications beyond which the project is no longer considered a retrofit. The structural engineers have discretion to determine how to modify or retrofit structural elements of an existing building to meet applicable code and project objectives. In this case, the District determined that it was not feasible to modify existing structural elements of the fire station. Therefore, the District determined that it was more cost effective to demolish the existing structural elements and construct a new structural system for the fire station on the existing slab foundation. While demolishing all structural elements of the structure may be considered an extreme example of a seismic retrofit, it nonetheless can be considered a retrofit since the existing foundation slab was retained. Since the completed project met the seismic mitigation goal stated in the District’s project application, the District’s view on this issue is not unreasonable. The District did not request any increase in FEMA funds beyond the amount FEMA originally approved for the project.
Issue 2 - Did the Grantee comply with the term of the grant agreement that requires it to notify FEMA if it changed the approved scope of work?
Item 21 of the Certifications and Assurances of the project application states; …that it will submit to the appropriate Federal Agency for prior approval changes that alter the cost of the project, use of space, or functional layout, that it will not enter into a construction contract(s) for the project or undertake other activities until conditions of the construction grant have been met.
Based on documents submitted with the appeal, it appears that the District submitted final drawings showing the demolition of the fire station to the Grantee who determined that the plans were consistent with the approved scope of work. Therefore, the Grantee did not notify FEMA of the final project plans before the District started construction. Based on the discussion of Issue 1 above, we believe the final project did not constitute a change in scope of work that required prior notification to FEMA.
The demolition of an existing building down to the slab and construction of a new structural system on the same foundation slab is consistent with the objective of a structural retrofit. The completed project met the seismic mitigation objective as stated in the project application at no additional cost to FEMA. Therefore, I approve the appeal for an additional $264,140 in Federal share for the project. By copy of this letter, I request the Regional Administrator take appropriate action to implement this determination.
It appears that the Grantee and FEMA Regional Mitigation staff have different interpretations of parts of the mitigation guidance and grant conditions. There should be closer coordination between the Grantee and FEMA to better align program interpretations.
Please inform the District of my determination. My determination is the final decision on this issue in accordance with 44 CFR 206.440, Appeals.
Roy E. WrightDeputy Associate Administrator for MitigationFederal Insurance and Mitigation Administration
cc: Kenneth D. Murphy, Regional Administrator, FEMA Region X (via email)Mark Carey, Mitigation Division Director, FEMA Region X (via email) Peter Tassoni, State Hazard Mitigation Officer, Washington State (via email)