Commissioners decide to reinstate contract despite FEMA funding decision - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Commissioners decide to reinstate contract despite FEMA funding decision

NEWKIRK, Okla. (AP) _ Kay County commissioners want a Florida contractor to continue its ice storm cleanup even though federal officials have said they will pay only part of the bill.

Commissioner Dee Schieber said the board decided Monday to reinstate the contract with AshBritt, which offered the highest bid at $16 per cubic yard. The company was scheduled to stop work Monday evening.

``They stood behind us, and we'll stand behind them,'' Schieber said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials last week notified commissioners that the county would not be reimbursed for the full amount owed to AshBritt.

Instead, the government would only reimburse the county at a rate of $7.95 per cubic yard, which equals the lowest amount received during the bid process. On Thursday, commissioners notified AshBritt that in five days the company should stop working.

Commissioners originally awarded a contract to AshBritt on Feb. 4 for $16 a cubic yard, then made a request for proposals for new contracts on FEMA's orders. On Feb. 15, the Pompano Beach, Fla., company was picked again for $16 a cubic yard, despite being the highest bidder.

The lowest bidder, Phillips & Jordan of Knoxville, Tenn., has filed a complaint with the county.

As part of Oklahoma's emergency disaster declaration, FEMA agreed to pay 75 percent of appropriate cleanup costs. The state and each covered county will split the remaining 25 percent.

The state has the final ruling on its 12.5 percent and can make a recommendation on FEMA's 75 percent.

John Noble, AshBritt division vice president, said that although company officials don't know when they might get paid, they wanted to finish the job.

``We're in the business of helping people put their communities back together,'' he said Monday.

The company will receive the same price per cubic yard, but AshBritt will pay local subcontractors less than the previous amount of $6 per cubic yard because Ashbritt may not be paid quickly or for the full amount it is owed, Noble said.

Eighty-five percent of the work is done and the rest should be finished in a week to 10 days, Schieber said. Company representatives estimate 250,000 cubic yards of debris will be collect, bringing AshBritt's bill to about $4 million.

FEMA spokesman Earl Armstrong said the agency wouldn't comment on its reasoning beyond a letter from James Roche, federal coordinating officer, to Fred W. Liebe, state coordinating officer.

The Feb. 26 letter states that $7.95 is a reasonable price and refers to FEMA's Public Assistance Guide, which states ``a reasonable cost is a cost that is both fair and equitable for the type of work being performed.''

Commissioners have 60 days from that date to appeal the agency's decision.
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