COLUMBIA — The Boone County Fire Protection District is planning to pay the federal government more than $750,000 it overbilled.
The Fire District board approved its annual budget at a special session Monday. In the budget, the Fire District set aside $752,453 owed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Fire District saved money during the past year to pay back money received from FEMA from 2002 to 2006. An audit in released in 2009 found some of the federal money was mismanaged, according to a previous Missourian report.
“We really started to cut back in our spending, and we were able to save about $500,000 last year,” Fire Chief Scott Olsen said.
The money to cover the FEMA bill also came from replacement reserves and contingency funds, Olsen said.
Olsen said he is still hopeful that the amount due to FEMA will be less than originally quoted after the agency finishes its own review of the audit.
“We’ve done a lot of work trying to justify the cost that was incurred previously that the auditors haven’t accounted for,” Olsen said.
In addition to paying back the federal agency, the Fire District voted to budget funds to purchase:
- Two new brush rigs — smaller vehicles meant for grass fires.
- Four Hurst combo units that function as both a spreader — also known as the “jaws of life” — and a cutter.
- A rescue boat.
- Paved concrete parking lots at some fire stations.
- Radios that comply with the Federal Communications Commission's requirements for 2013.
The funds to cover these purchases came from leftover bond money designated for equipment, said Dave Griggs, board chairman of the Fire District. All of the bonds have been paid off, and the Fire District was left with $245,000 in surplus.
This surplus, Griggs said, marked a significant improvement for the district.
“This was a troubled organization years ago,” he said. “It is certainly well beyond that.”