The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Montour County

February 21, 2014

Rural, lower-income Danville got FEMA funds early

DANVILLE — Federal reimbursement money for the school district’s renovation of Danville Middle School came out at a faster rate due to the district being in a more rural and lower income area.

Janis Venna, school district business manager, said the federal and Pennsylvania emergency management agencies generally give up to 75 percent of reimbursement money to a group, and withhold the last 25 percent until the final audit is done. With Danville, however, they gave up to 90 percent, withholding the last 10 percent for the final audit.

Venna said she was not told by PEMA what the equation was for determining why Danville was eligible for the increased reimbursement rate. She was told the average income within the district fell below that of the state average.

According to data from the U.S. Census, the median household income in Montour County between 2008 and 2012 was $49,845. The median household income throughout Pennsylvania for that time was $52,267.

The reconstruction of the middle school, which was heavily damaged by flood water in September 2011, has cost approximately $11.6 million. The district has received a total of $10.68 million from a combination of federal reimbursements and flood insurance money. Their differential right now is about $900,000, though their final cost may be lower based on additional paperwork and money received, Venna said.

It will probably be another month and a half to two months before all the paperwork and reimbursements are filed, Venna said. It’s the filing and paperwork process that’s taking the most time at this point, Venna said.

“They’ve been really good at turning the money right around for us,” she said of FEMA and PEMA.

It will not be possible for the school to be reimbursed for the entire cost of the building. While FEMA and PEMA were willing to cover damages caused by the flood, the school spent extra money on renovations and other costs outside the scope of the project.

This included repainting the second floor of the school, which was undamaged by the flood, and installing a wooden floor in the gym. FEMA and PEMA would have covered the cost of a synthetic floor, but that would not have met the standards of PIAA basketball games hosted at the school, Venna said.

While the wood gym floor will need to be replaced in the event of another flood, overall the middle school is much better prepared to handle water damage, said district maintenance director Rick Engle. The building is “wet-proofed,” meaning water will still enter the building but the school interior is designed to withstand the water damage. Mechanical systems are located further above water lines, all non-masonry walls are covered with moisture-resistant material and auditorium seating and gym bleachers are water-resistant.

All reconstruction has been completed and done within the scope of FEMA and Danville borough’s flood ordinance, Engle said

“The work completed by the contractors was done on time and a quality job,” he said.

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