The Federal Emergency Management Agency is standing by its commitment of providing federal funding for new structures to be erected in place of music and arts buildings at the University of Iowa which were damaged in the catastrophic 2008 flood.
The FEMA report which is an official response to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said it believes the federal government should help pay for the replacement of Hancher, Voxman, Clapp, and Art Building East facilities.
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University of Iowa president Sally Mason appeared to be extremely satisfied with the decision. "Speaking for the entire University, particularly our 31,000 students, we are very pleased with the forceful reaffirmation from FEMA's national leadership to replace Hancher, the School of Music, and Art Building East," Mason said in the statement. "We continue to be extremely grateful and thankful for the support of Governor Branstad, our congressional delegation, the Board of Regents and the Office of Iowa Homeland Security."
In June, an audit by the OIG of Homeland Security said FEMA's commitment was erroneous. The buildings should have been repaired in the same locations, not moved and replaced, because they were salvageable under federal rules, the report said.
The projects should be suspended and the $84 million in federal and state funds promised should be diverted for 'better use,' the audit said. However, FEMA's regional office in Kansas City disagreed with the audit's recommendation and stood by its decision.
The Iowa River that runs through campus flooded in June 2008, forcing the evacuation and closure of 20 major buildings. Particularly hit hard were art and music programs in which nearly 12,000 students took courses last year and Hancher Auditorium, were 68,000 people attended concerts and events in 2007.
FEMA's regional office said it makes no sense to spend tens of millions to repair the buildings but keep them in a flood plain. Further delays will hurt the university, which has spent millions planning to replace the buildings and buy new land, and increase costs to taxpayers, the agency warned.
But the new FEMA report has cleared this disagreement between the two federal agencies. Now with FEMA's support, the decision will be appealed to a higher power within Homeland Security where the funding issue can be hopefully resolved one way or the other, reports Iowa City Patch.
"Today we wrote Secretary Napolitano asking for a final decision from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to end this Federal bureaucratic squabble soon and allow the University of Iowa to fully recover from the historic 2008 floods," Gov. Terry Branstad said in a statement.