Boone County Fire Protection District could owe FEMA less than expected

Thursday, July 26, 2012 | 6:59 p.m. CDT; updated 7:11 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 26, 2012

COLUMBIA — The Boone County Fire Protection District might have to repay the Federal Emergency Management Agency nearly half-a-million dollars less than it anticipated for overpaying itself for Task Force One activities.

Fire Chief Scott Olsen learned in a phone call from a FEMA official last week that the repayment could be $213,648, according to a news release from the Fire District.  

The district set aside $752,453 in 2010 after a June 2009 audit by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security found that the Fire District overpaid itself for the preparations and emergency responses to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina by Task Force One. 

But when the money will have to be returned to the federal government, or why the figure is so much less than first recommended, wasn't clear. "The Fire District has not received official notification which means we have not received the detailed report of their findings or a timeline to repay it," Olsen said in the release.

The audit, requested by the FBI, covered the district’s use of FEMA funds from 2000 to 2006. Steve Paulsell, who resigned in November 2009, was fire chief during that time. Sharon Curry, an assistant chief who managed grants for Task Force One during that period, resigned in February 2007.

The district contested multiple parts of the audit and was waiting for FEMA to complete its own review.

"Once we receive that document, the board of directors will review those and make a determination whether to accept or contest their findings," Olsen said in the release.

He was not available for further comment Thursday afternoon.

The funds the Homeland Security audit recommended be disallowed and repaid by the district included:

  • $118,728 in preparedness costs incurred outside of the approved timeframes
  • $284,930 in preparedness costs that were inside approved periods but that were not properly justified
  • $63,262 in ineligible replacement personnel costs during Task Force One deployments
  • $267,952 for unsupported preparedness costs: $183,866 in salary costs and $84,086 in claimed costs without supporting documentation
  • $17,581 in unsupported labor costs during deployments 

Olsen said in the release he expected to receive the detailed report within the next 30 days.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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