Arbitration panel denies Gustav reimbursement to Livingston Parish

"This could be detrimental to Livingston Parish," said Ricks in a news conference. (Source: WAFB)
"This could be detrimental to Livingston Parish," said Ricks in a news conference. (Source: WAFB)
Crews collecting debris in Livingston Parish following Hurricane Gustav. (Source: WAFB)
Crews collecting debris in Livingston Parish following Hurricane Gustav. (Source: WAFB)

LIVINGSTON, LA (WAFB) - Livingston Parish has lost its appeal regarding reimbursement for cleanup following Hurricane Gustav.

The multi-million dollar reimbursement was denied. A Washington judge ruled Livingston Parish would not get a penny and now, contractors and the parish are left with a more than $59 million problem.

"Very disappointed, let down," said Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks. "I feel like we've run into a roadblock here. I'm just disappointed in the decision. Of course, I disagree with the panel's decision."

Some people had been waiting for the past six years on the decision that was rendered Monday, but it was not what many expected. It was a very emotional day for Ricks, who said his administration basically walked into a $59 million problem.

"I think we provided the evidence it took. I thought our attorneys did a great job. I felt our witnesses were very convincing of what really went on. Obviously, the parish does not have $60 million," Ricks added.

Ever since he took office more than two years ago, Ricks has been waiting on the verdict. In 2008, Livingston Parish contracted out with a company to pick up knocked down trees and the debris left behind by Hurricane Gustav. The bill was $53 million. Plus, two other companies were hired to monitor the cleanup process, which cost at least $6 million more. FEMA denied the reimbursement and the judge agreed, refusing to pay the parish back for even a penny of the cleanup cost.

"FEMA is pleased that the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) has ruled in our favor," FEMA said. "We remain committed and focused on Louisiana's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and Isaac."

Meanwhile, the companies owed millions want their money.

"My mother taught me if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," said Lawrence Green, president of International Equipment Distributors (IED). "I choose to take that advice today because I have nothing nice to say about this decision. God is my strength and my redeemer."

IED is due $53 million from Livingston Parish for debris removal post Gustav.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed and surprised with the results and I guess, essentially, what it shows is that justice is not always served, particularly when you're fighting the federal government," said Tony Arikol, president of Professional Engineering Consultants (PEC).

PEC is due $5 million from Livingston Parish for monitoring services after the storm, which basically means it had people out in the field documenting contractors and office work for appeals.

Ricks said no explanation was given as to why the reimbursement was denied. He also said he has his own speculation about Mike Grimmer, the man who was parish president during the cleanup process in 2008.

"To know that he was parish president at that time and that he is there now as a paid witness for FEMA against the parish, I can only believe because he supposed to be the guy at the top and he was the guy at the top at that time, that it probably led to some, I think the reality of it is it probably had an impact," Ricks explained.

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