While grateful for their new homes at Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Miss., local residents said their FEMA-delivered travel trailers were poorly set up and that response to their requests for repairs has been slow, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger.
Temporary housing is still the biggest issue facing the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday (Oct. 18). He said almost 8,000 people have moved into travel trailers or mobile homes – at a rate of about 300 a day.
Throughout south Mississippi, 712 travel trailers have been placed inside state, national and some private parks, but state-run parks have received the bulk of the units.
Buccaneer park is filled with gleaming white travel trailers paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The residents mostly are local firefighters, police officers and other government workers.
Tommy Carver Jr., a Waveland firefighter, has found the lack of communication frustrating in dealing with recurring problems with his trailer at the park.
Carver, who lost his mobile home to Katrina, said he has been calling for six weeks without a response for repairs. He said his sewer line is leaking, the air conditioner doesn’t work well, there is no water pressure, and the trailer is not level.
The situation mirrors concerns raised by David J. Humphreys, outgoing president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), that FEMA and its subcontractors are not equipped to properly set up the units or address service problems once the trailers are delivered.
The trailers are being provided by San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., which was awarded the housing contract by FEMA. David Long, a Bechtel employee who was recording the placement of trailers at Buccaneer park on Tuesday, said Carver’s complaints are not uncommon and that some subcontractors had been fired for shoddy work.
“They just brought (the trailers) out here and just dropped them,” Long said.
FEMA spokesman Eugene Brezany admitted the placement and installation of 7,800 travel trailers has been “problematic” at times.
“We’re talking about thousands of recently installed units,” he said. “We get dozens and dozens of calls, and we’re working through that.”
While residents said they were pleased to get trailers, there’s confusion in the park about who is responsible for what. Several residents recently heard that FEMA had taken over the park.
Brezany said the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is in charge of the park, and FEMA is responsible for the trailers. Local governments also are involved, he said, but he did not know to what extent. Brezany said FEMA is “more than happy” with Bechtel’s progress in providing housing.
While Bechtel’s contract puts the company in charge of maintenance, spokesman John Britton said work is carried out by subcontractors. Those subcontractors have received about 2,000 maintenance calls on trailers throughout the Coast, he said.