Harrison County unhappy about FEMA denying reimbursement

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County officials are downright frustrated because of a letter from MEMA stating the county wouldn't be reimbursed for costly repairs made to a pier in Long Beach.

Harrison County officials say they spent $174,000 to repair the Jim Simpson Pier with the understanding that FEMA would reimburse them.

But the letter from MEMA sticks them with a large bill that just isn't in the budget. And county officials are calling FEMA's reason for denying reimbursement "ridiculous".

When repairing the Jim Simpson Pier, Harrison County officials say they did everything they could to comply with FEMA's guidelines.

"We prepared project worksheets, which had the project. We submitted it to all the regulatory agencies. We were advised we had to submit it to, and quite frankly, the project was approved to go forward as being eligible. It's just after the fact that FEMA now says there should have been some type of approval from NOAA," said Harrison County Board of Supervisors Attorney Tim Holleman.

According to a letter from MEMA, the county is ineligible for that reimbursement because the pier's repairs were completed before FEMA's environmental compliance process was completed.

Harrison County Board of Supervisors President Marlin Ladner says he doesn't understand why an environmental compliance process can't be done after the work was completed.

"The fact that we didn't get a study or an evaluation by NOAA this pier had been in existence for 20 years. If there are any adverse effects on sea life than they have, I think they have, a responsibility whether we finish the pier or not to make that determination," Ladner said.

The county will be appealing FEMA's decision, but if the money isn't reimbursed, the county have may have to absorb the cost by pulling it out of the rainy day fund or amending the budget.

The county has until March 27th to submit their appeal. If the county isn't successful in the appeal, than there is a political process they can go through to hopefully get some action by Congress to force FEMA to reimburse the money.

According to MEMA officials, in all disaster projects MEMA does not make decisions on eligibility for federal funding. So all we did was pass along to Harrison County that FEMA had denied their projects. Apparently, they did that because NOAA had not signed off on the environmental reviews for the project. And MEMA is supporting any of the counties with their appeals and will do whatever we can to support their appeals. The appeals are through the applicant which is Harrison County. We'll go to bat for them the best we can. The county and the city are appealing FEMA, not MEMA. Because we are just the middle man and make sure all the paper work is documented and we make sure all the cities and counties get their funds.  

We reached out to FEMA but they weren't immediately available to provide a response.

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