The city of Fernandina Beach has an ally in its battle with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over reimbursement of millions of dollars for repairs to the Fernandina Harbor Marina following Hurricane Matthew – the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
In a letter to FEMA Region IV Administrator Gracia Szczech, Allison McLeary, FDEM recovery chief and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ representative to FEMA, asked that the city’s appeal for almost $6 million in reimbursement of the city’s costs to repair extensive damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 be granted.
The formula used by FEMA when determining whether it will pay toward disaster-related repairs or replacement is that, if the repairs would cost more than 50% of the cost of replacement of a damaged facility, FEMA pays 75% of the replacement costs. Following Hurricane Matthew, the city obtained reports from an engineering firm that the attenuator at the marina was damaged beyond repair and needed to be replaced. The city moved forward with replacement of the attenuator and repair of other parts of the marina based on a “Cost Estimating Format” provided by FEMA that stated “dock 1 meets FEMA requirement for replacement.” The city says FEMA agreed to pay 75% of $8 million to replace the attenuator.
However, in May, FEMA notified the city that, based on another assessment performed after Hurricane Matthew, it will not pay 75% of the more than $8 million total cost of the repairs for the entire marina. The city said it has not seen the assessment on which that decision was based and was previously assured by multiple FEMA officials the damage at the marina qualified it for 75% reimbursement of replacement costs.
The city is in the process of appealing that decision and sent a copy of that appeal to FDEM as part of that process. In a letter supporting the appeal, McLeary noted the city “conducted several inspections of its facility to evaluate the repair costs” and that “FEMA disagreed, instead determining much of the cost of for repair fell well below the 50% threshold and only awarded what it determined as costs to repair.”
The letter continues, “Applicant (the city) argues that FEMA misinterpreted applicant’s cost estimate and provides clarifying information that its repairs do exceed 50% the cost for replacement,” and refers to documentation provided by the city that “demonstrate(s) that applicant has shown the facility is eligible for replacement.”
The letter concludes by recommending FEMA grant the city’s appeal, which was submitted Aug. 28 to FEMA. The agency has 90 days to respond.