Greene County vs. FEMA, contractors still unpaid

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – Greene County is awaiting response from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management regarding an unpaid bill totaling approximately $400,000 in emergency protective measures sustained during the January 2009 ice storm. According to Judge Jesse Dollars, the county failed to properly monitor the work of subcontractors Ron Kingston Contracting and RBN Disaster Recovery in the days after the storm.

"We send everything in. They (ADEM) review it. Their auditor goes through it. He gives them his opinion and then they send us a letter saying we got a problem here. We need to go over this better," said Dollars. "We appealed it and we're in the first appeal process right now. We got a call the other day saying we should hear something within 30 days."

Dollars said the county hopes FEMA will approve their reimbursement request for work performed in the days after the ice storm. Dollars said Ron Kingston and Rodney Gladish approached him after the storm asking to offer recovery assistance.

"When the 70 hours is up, they automatically have to stop and when they stop, they turn the bill in to me. I had one contractor send his bill in, which was a little under $17,000. The other one turned his bill in and it was $37-something thousand," said Dollars.

However, Gladish and Kingston said Dollars approached them requesting help.

"I received a phone call early the 28th of January asking for assistance in doing an emergency push here in Greene County," said Kingston. "Cleaning off roads so emergency vehicles and people could get down the roads here."

"We told them in the very beginning, more than once, at least three times, I said and I had my road supervisor there and I think maybe one other person, I said guys here where we stand. The county doesn't have the money to pay you right now for this. This is strictly volunteer unless FEMA pays and they said they clearly understand. No problem. We'll take care of it," said Dollars.

"The county made the request so there was nothing in here about volunteer. I mean who would want to bring this amount of crews up here on a stipulation like that," said Gladish. "You provide emergency measures. You eliminate the threat of life, public health and safety and to eliminate further damage of public and private property and to ensure the economic recovery of the community at large."

Gladish said he hired 61 crews to work throughout the county. He said Dollars described what work he'd like done at a meeting in late January.

"We were asking for monitors and for people to certify the equipment and monitors may have been county employees. The judge said they were underhanded and they were. They didn't have the help," said Gladish. "If the county had paid this already, they would probably be a little more aggressive in trying to recover the funds."

According to FEMA, the county did not properly monitor work performed by both contractors and follow procurement procedures.

"We have to sit down and look at it. Of course the smaller one will be no problem at all. The work we can pay it fairly easy. The reason for not accepting the other one, we have to look at it ourselves too and find out why this was rejected," said Dollars. "They do a little more in depth study of it because we're in the situation where it happened so fast and we're not watching, we're not getting their budget within 70 hours, we just know they're out there doing the job."

Dollars said he was concerned with the disparity among both contractors' bills. Kingston sent the county a bill for $17,480. Gladish sent a bill for $372,000.

"It just threw up a red flag to them saying we need to check this out and research it and make sure everything is okay," said Dollars. "The only thing you can do in an emergency push by law, by FEMA's guidelines, is clear the roads. That's to shove everything to the side and leave it. You can't pick it up and haul it off and none of the stuff like that and that's what they were supposed to have done."

"We had three crews working out in the county, worked for approximately five days. They got 72 hours total on the push," said Kingston. "They're in the process and this was 15 months ago and we've been very patient in getting our money."

Dave Tierney, Greene County Quorum Court member, said late Monday he'll work with other justices to ensure both contractors get their money. He said he sat in a meeting in which Dollars instructed what the crews needed to do.

"I think people will eventually realize that we performed work 15 months ago and we need to be paid," said Kingston.

"This was a major ice storm. It crippled the whole county and there was a lot of work involved," said Gladish. "The money is there. FEMA has obligated the funds and yet the county has failed to, and number one, they've got to satisfy the state before and the state submits this to FEMA."

Gladish said he believes the Greene County Quorum Court will eventually make a payment. He said legal action would be a last resort.

"I contacted one lawyer, or one attorney that is more than willing to take the case. I'm hoping that it doesn't come down to that. I don't want any more exposure on this than anybody else. I just want the problem to go away," said Gladish.

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