A division of the federal government says the city of Louisville, Miss., should repay a $25.4 million grant awarded for recovery from a 2014 tornado.
However, state Auditor Stacey Pickering said he is working with federal and local officials to try to minimize the amount of money that must be sent back.
Pickering said Oct. 11 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency “has taken some exception” with portions of the report issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
FEMA will make the ultimate decision on whether the city must repay the money, Pickering said.
In a report dated Sept. 29 but held for public release until last Oct. 6, the inspector general said Louisville did not follow federal procurement standards in awarding 12 contracts totaling $23.9 million to rebuild a city-owned plywood processing facility that was heavily damaged by the tornado. The facility recently reopened.
“Specifically, for 11 contracts totaling $23,343,436, the city did not take the required affirmative steps to ensure the use of disadvantaged firms, such as small and minority firms, when possible,” the inspector general’s report said.
The report also said the FEMA paid $1.5 million to the city that duplicated other benefits.
The April 2014 tornado was on the ground 34 miles with wind speeds of up to 185 mph. It killed 10 people in Louisville, a city of about 6,300 residents in the center of the state.
Louisville Mayor Will Hill, who was in office when the tornado struck, said Tuesday that he believes the city has been careful with disaster recovery money.
“I am confident, with the cooperation of local, state and federal governments, that this will prove to be a story-book success,” Hill said. “We have complied with all that has been asked of us.”
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