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Feds Question City's Battery Park Disaster Repair

A federal audit of the Battery Park repair efforts has resulted in a mostly clean bill of health.

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A federal audit of the city's Battery Park disaster repair efforts is complete and the city has received a clean — or at least not too dirty — bill of health from federal bean counters.

The audit, released at the end of August, examined more than $39 million in federal assistance funds awarded to the city to repair damages caused when flooding from Tropical Storm Ernesto devastated the Battery Park neighborhood in August 2006.

Though no wrongdoing was discovered, the audit uncovered $783,598 — $587,699 of it federal dollars — in “questioned costs resulting from contract charges that were excessive, ineligible, duplicative or unsupported,” according to the final audit report, and “identified $24,219 of unremitted interest earned on [Federal Emergency Management Agency] advances.”

Among the excessive charges was a discovery on one project that “six supervisors were hired to supervise only three employees,” the report states. Various other questioned charges included $6,440 for office furniture “not authorized under the repair project.”

The city also sought $145,212 in reimbursements for sidewalk restoration projects to repair damages to the city's First Tee golf course and payment of annual security company fees.

The report's findings are significant because various city leaders, including former City Council President Bill Pantele, previously suggested that Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's administration might have used FEMA money from Battery Park in part to pay for its costly attempt to evict Richmond School Board from City Hall in 2007.

Though the report found various issues with the city's requested reimbursements, the report also states that $783,598 of the city's original funding request from FEMA had failed to meet federal approval, and therefore funds were withdrawn. 

City spokeswoman Tammy Hawley says the six supervisors that the report indicated were in charge of three employees weren't in supervisory positions. “In this case the word ‘supervisor' in the job title relates more to the individual's level of training, skills, and certifications,” Hawley says. 

FEMA's Eastern Region director, C. David Kimble, signed the report but did not return calls for comment.

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