Calcasieu Parish School Board halts hurricane construction

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:53 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The Calcasieu Parish School Board announced it will be temporarily suspending construction after a money battle with FEMA.

“We are in a position where our cash flow is so poor on these projects that we felt like we needed to take some action,” said Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus.

The well ran dry for the school board. It stopped construction after all means of funding were exhausted.

“We’ve borrowed $100 million through the Louisiana Bond Commission, so we’ve spent that. We got $40 million of insurance proceeds, and we’ve spent that. We also have used $20 million of our own money here at the school board,” Bruchhaus said.

Bidding on new projects and construction on some schools stopped two months ago, according to Bruchhaus. He said the board anticipated the funding shortage.

With $125,000 in remediation money being held by FEMA, Bruchhaus said even a portion of that money would help sustain work on current projects.

“If we could get the $50 million or $60 million that represents half, we could start the process going again because that would sustain us through a lot of these projects,” Bruchhaus said.

FEMA responded in a statement, saying:

“The Subrecipient elected to perform their own damage assessments prior to scheduling site inspections with FEMA. Initial damage reports for nine facilities were provided in May 2021, for which virtual site inspections have already been scheduled or completed. The Subrecipient began providing additional damage assessments on June 30, 2021. Virtual site inspections are currently being scheduled for those. Inspections are critical for identifying and describing storm-related damages for each facility.”

The school board said they’ve made weekly calls in hopes of expediting the process, and that they are doing everything FEMA has asked of them.

In a statement, FEMA said it’s working with the school system to address those concerns by Friday. Once approved by both parties, it could take another month or more to distribute funding because the four projects each cost more than $20 million.

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