Claremore Daily Progress

Oologah/Talala

September 9, 2012

Helm double dips with double chip

FEMA funds repair roadway twice despite guidelines

CLAREMORE — Questions continue to surface regarding the State Auditor’s report evaluating the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds by Rogers County Commissioner Mike Helm.

FEMA documents and emails acquired by a Claremore Daily Progress’ Open Records request reveal the possible duplication of funds for work on multiple county roads.
Additionally, the funds were used to double chip seal roads, an expense not normally permitted under FEMA guidelines.
“It depends on the disaster,” Helm said. “Single chip back to single chip.”
Helm said that sometimes double chip is approved but would not elaborate without review of   project worksheets.
The issue began with the 2011 snowstorms, which became FEMA Disaster-1985.
Robin Anderson, Helm’s FEMA records coordinator,  submitted documentation to FEMA regarding road, equipment damages and labor due to the snowstorms.
However, FEMA did not approve all expenses submitted by Anderson, partially due to the double chip seal on some roadways.
Another reason for denial was that the expenses were not allowed due to equipment purchases that were made months after the disaster occurred.
 “Applicant [Rogers County District 2] has purchased two new trucks, neither truck is listed in the Force Account Equipment summary as doing eligible work in the incident period,” according to FEMA documents. The new vehicles cost approximately $140,000.
During snow disasters, FEMA will write out what repairs are suppose to happen, Helm said.
The project worksheets show the work the county has done or hopes to do, according to Helm.
Sometimes, FEMA does not agree with the assessment and then the applicant can appeal the decision.
“If it is under a place we don’t agree it goes under mitigation,” Helm said. “In Disaster-1985, we had a difference of opinion with them [FEMA].”
Helm brought in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to inspect and provide comment to FEMA for the work.

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