Mark Harrell

Mark Harrell, Director of the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, seen here at a conference in September 2017, remains hopeful that Livingston Parish will receive a share of the $1.2 billion in Community Development Funds recently approved by Congress. 

LIVINGSTON – The process to obtain federal funds for repairs ranging from schools to inundation of road surfacing remains sluggish, at best, for Livingston Parish.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is expected to file an appeal with FEMA by the end of this week for funding to repair roads inundated during the floods of 2106.

FEMA has agreed to consider the request from Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, but repairs remain a long-term shot-in-the-dark.

“They’ve said they don’t like paying for it,” he said. “It’s very costly for them and too hard to quantify.”

Harrell met Monday in Livingston with FEMA Regional Administrator Tony Robinson from the regional office in Denton, Texas, as well as acting FEMA Deputy Administrator for Recovery Keith Turri, from Washington D.C.

Other reimbursement for the parish, particularly recovery funds for the Livingston Parish School System, which faces a $22 million shortfall from damages to school buildings during the flood.

The school-related issues remain a cloudy murky issue between FEMA and the parish.

“I asked a question last night about the schools, and they couldn’t tell me why they wouldn’t move forward, so we’ll dig in and see what they can tell us,” Harrell said.

The parish also seeks money for repairs to bridges, buildings, roads and sewer.

The money on those issues stand separately from the appeal the parish will make for inundation.

You’re talking about damage you can see versus damages under the surface,” Harrell said. “You’re talking about two entirely different animals.”

Inundation of numerous roads across the parish over a one-week period of stagnant floodwater led to deterioration. Assessments of the roads inundated for indicate base and sub-base damage, Harrell said.

Inundation causes strength or a road to decrease by 50 percent or more.

The state has 60 days to file the appeal with FEMA.

An answer on the request will probably not come before the first quarter of 2018.

The parish has taken steps to justify the process and help FEMA determine which roads should undergo repairs for base- and sub-base damages, Harrell said.

He said he gave the agency a “scoring” method to determine which roads should undergo repair, based on the age of the road when it flooded.

Older roads would not score high in the assessment.

“We’re not going to take a fifteen-year-old road and ask for money after it flooded,” Harrell said. “If you have a road in rough condition and it floods, and you lose a stretch of the base, you can’t ask for a large percentage of replacement since it has deteriorated over the years.”

He pegged Jack Allen Road near Livingston as a route which would score high on the assessment.

“That road was completed a week or two after the flood, so automatically you’re going to ask for a higher percentage,” Harrell said.

The response from the two representatives proved far more productive than other meetings with FEMA, he said.

“They complimented us for doing our homework, and we showed the we’re not asking them to pay for everything,” Harrell said. “We took a commonsense approach and told them I realized it’s hard for them to understand because you can’t put common sense and FEMA together.”

Harrell said he will likely have to meet with FEMA in Washington D.C. for the next meeting. 

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