In a much anticipated rebidding of contracts to service travel trailers in Louisiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) appears poised to dole out more than half the work to out-of-state companies, despite federal assurances that the process would favor local firms, FEMA documents show.
The Times Picayune, New Orleans, reported that the surprising results have infuriated some small Gulf Coast businesses, the same firms that federal officials and bid guidelines insisted would have an advantage in the contract derby.
Louisiana’s two U.S. senators said this week they also are bothered by the outcome of the rebidding the documents suggest, which they said would undermine repeated assurances FEMA has given them that more money would be funneled to businesses rooted in areas that absorbed the most ferocious hit from last year’s hurricanes.
“This is not acceptable, and we’re going to get to the bottom of this somehow,” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said.
As if the nuts and bolts of the rebidding weren’t puzzling enough, the contracts are expected to run for five years, considerably longer than the 18-month clock for temporary housing that started ticking when Katrina roared ashore Aug. 29.
FEMA officials declined to comment on whether the time frame reflects the agency’s belief the trailer parks sprouting along the Gulf Coast will be more permanent than originally expected, but the vendors seeking the work said they have no doubt that was the intent and that they believe the contracts could run their full course.
The newspaper reported that FEMA has formally announced only a partial list of winners for contracts for “the maintenance and eventual deactivation” of tens of thousands of temporary trailers the agency has installed since Katrina, and it now has missed repeated deadlines for announcing its choices.
FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said the agency has worked hard to make the process fair and favorable to small and minority-owned firms.