Katrina Is Still Harming Coastians

Almost four years after Hurricane Katrina kicked the crap outta the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the residents are still suffering from its effects.  First it was the extreme damage of property loss and lives lost.  Then it was the unscrupulous contractors.  On to FEMA trailers that were tainted.  A/holes that were defrauding the government even to include some government officials. And now, there is the possibility that an esstential of the rebuilding, drywall, may be dangerous.

The drywall in question has come to us from the country of lead paint, bad dog food and such, China.  A company named,  Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., Ltd.

Some of the indications of bad or tainted drywall, the people the have used it have complained of respiratory problems, electronic devices inexplicably breaking down and a strong odors in their homes that smell like rotting eggs, which is due to the release of sulfur;  the sulfur smell is usually present, along with black deposits in bare copper wires, black deposits on the HVAC copper, changes to finishes on mirrors, pitting of chrome and other objects, as well as light switches that pop or have visible discharges.

Sadly, Katrina has continued to effect the lives of the Gulf Coast for years after the event and seems will continue that tact for many years to come.

What is A “Primary Residence”?

This story from the Sun-Herald.

If Mayor Brent Warr and his wife, Laura, are tried on Katrina-fraud charges, a verdict could be based on a “totality” of records indicating whether their primary residence was the one they claimed on Beach Drive to qualify for federal hurricane recovery funds, according to records from a previous case.

Court testimony in a previous case indicates neither MDA nor FEMA regulations define what constitutes a “primary residence.”

The Homeowners Assistance grant paperwork asked applicants: “Was damaged residence your primary residence on Aug. 29, 2005?” To qualify for a grant, the application guidebook says, you must have “owned and occupied your home on Aug. 29, 2005,” and it must have been your “primary residence.”

The Warrs bought the beach property from the federal government around January 2004. They were living in a home owned by Brent Warr’s grandmother while the beach home was renovated. Brent Warr has said the family was substantially moved into the beach home when Katrina struck.

Bordelon said homestead exemption on a property is one indication the home is owner-occupied. But if the Warrs moved into the beach home in 2005, the law says they would need to wait until January 2006 to apply for homestead. The Harrison County Tax Assessor’s Office said the Warrs have never had homestead exemption on the beach house, although they live there now.

In addition to homestead exemption, Bordelon testified in the previous case: “We look for where somebody gets their bills, where they spend their time, where their belongings are, where do their bills go to, are they registered to vote, their driver’s license, things of that nature, things that can only be attributed to one location, generally.

“But when there is evidence of a situation where someone is fortunate enough to have more than one home, for example, the reliability of some of these factors diminishes. For example, if someone has more than one residence, they can spend time in multiple locations. So you look at where did they maintain their homestead, and those other factors increase in importance.”

Here is an idea:  primary residence?  the place where you physically live.  See that was not so hard.  If he gets to keep the cash, then everyone who filled out the paperwork should a second chance at scamming the government too.

This is just all so pathetic.

On a side note…why are not the people more outraged?  I mean a governor was impeached because of allegations….I guess the South is just more tolerant to the crimes of our elected representatives…..we have many many years of crooks in office…..that is all I can think of…….for some reason voters seldom think of them as betraying the public trust…..is it stupidity or just ignorance that allows this sort of thing to continue?

Gulfport Mayor Fights Indictment

A Hurricane Katrina-recovery ambassador to President George W. Bush and the nation, Mayor Brent Warr says his work and the city’s will continue as prosecutors prepare a federal case against him and his wife, Laura, on 16 charges of Katrina fraud.

The Warrs cried quietly Wednesday in the corridor of the U.S. District courthouse just blocks from City Hall after they were each indicted on 16 charges: one count of conspiracy, one count of fraud, two counts of theft of public funds, four counts of making false statements, three counts of wire fraud and five counts of mail fraud.

The indictment says the Warrs reconstructed their beachfront mansion with $222,798 in ill-gotten gains from FEMA, HUD and Lexington Insurance Co. from September 2005 to March 2007. The Warrs received the maximum $150,000 HUD homeowners grant through the Mississippi Development Authority, $9,558 in FEMA funds and $88,440.10 from Lexington Insurance Co., the indictment says.

Gulfport’s first couple potentially faces maximum penalties of 210 years each in prison and fines of up to $4 million each. The government also is seeking forfeiture of their Katrina recovery and insurance funds, or assets of equal value.

Their trial is tentatively scheduled for April 6. Their attorney, Joe Sam Owen of Gulfport, told the judge that the Warrs would have separate attorneys by Monday. There is a potential conflict of interest when a couple is represented by the same attorney.

Charges Against The Warrs

In case one is interested in the charges filed against Mr & Mrs Warr here they be:

Charges against Brent and Laura Warr:

Count 1: Conspiracy

Count 2: Fraud

Counts 3-6: False statements

Maximum penalty on each count, counts 1-6: five years in prison, $250,000 fine.

Counts 7-8: Theft of federal funds

Maximum penalty on each count, counts 7 and 8: 10 years in prison, $250,000 fine.

Counts 9-11: Wire fraud

Count 12-16: Mail fraud

Maximum penalty on each count, counts 9-16: 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine.

City Council members expect the work of the city to move forward despite Mayor Brent Warr’s personal problems.Most of the council were in Jackson on Wednesday attending the Mississippi Municipal League conference; however, two returned to Gulfport on Wednesday afternoon after they heard that Warr and his wife, Laura, were indicted in federal court on 16 counts of Hurricane Katrina fraud.

Most of the council said they were surprised at the number of counts.

Katrina Kids And Illness

Children of displaced families from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are struggling with serious health problems, according to a new report released today by the New York-based Children’s Health Fund and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

The report focused on the medical records of 261 of the poorest children displaced by the hurricanes. These kids and their families were moved into a federally funded Baton Rouge trailer park until the park closed in May 2008. This is the first in-depth review of children’s medical and mental health after the storms in 2005 that struck the Gulf Coast and displaced thousands of families.

Forty-one percent of children under 4 years of age were diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia–twice the rate found in children in New York City homeless shelters and more than twice the Centers for Disease Control’s rate for high-risk minority populations. More than half the kids had behavioral or learning problems. And 42 percent had respiratory infections and disorders that may be linked to formaldehyde and crowding in the ramshackle trailers supplied by the government.

The study made many urgent recommendations. Among them: FEMA must provide contact information for these children so their medical needs can be treated and an extension in funding is necessary so these kids can receive further medical attention. Redlener told Newsweek that he’s optimistic that funds will be extended at least through mid-2010, since all that will require is “a stroke of the pen” from the new administration.

Katrina Fraud Nails Police Chief

Lumberton Police Chief Maurice Hammond has been indicted on eight charges involving false claims he allegedly made to FEMA and the Small Business Administration for Katrina disaster assistance money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced today.

The indictment alleges that Hammond, who is from Poplarville, filed a false claim for disaster assistance, made false statements to FEMA, stole government funds, and committed wire fraud. The indictment also alleges Hammond made a false statement to the SBA.

If convicted of each count, Hammond faces up to 105 years in prison and up to $2 million in fines. Hammond has been released on bond and ordered to appear Dec. 1 for arraignment in U.S. District Court.

LA: House Turned Into Rubble Before Appeal

Delores Jones called the city of New Orleans frantically this week when she heard that a demolition crew had arrived at the Central City house she and her husband have owned since the early 1970s.

The 73-year-old woman had in her possession a letter, dated Oct. 1, saying she had 30 working days to challenge a plan to raze her two-story rental house at 2401-03 La Salle St. on the grounds that it was in “imminent danger of collapse.” But Wednesday, just 16 weekdays after the date of the letter, Jones’ house was turned into a pile of rubble by Dynamite Demolition, a city subcontractor.

The property became the latest casualty of confusion and procedural troubles in the city’s demolition program, which has come under heightened scrutiny since a post-Hurricane Gustav executive order temporarily wiped away reviews for certain historic properties targeted for demolition.

There have been several reports of demolition errors recently, and the signs of trouble keep mounting. For example, a list of properties declared in imminent danger of collapse — one step in the demolition approval process — and posted on a city Web site Sept. 29 includes 1720 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. That is the address for the fully renovated Ashe Cultural Arts Center, a main gathering place for Central City residents.

Nagin’s executive order allowed the city for two weeks to bypass the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee and immediately demolish any properties the city administration deemed an imminent health threat, about 170 properties in all

An angry Jones said health problems had prevented her from making headway with her property since Hurricane Katrina. But she said she had recently withdrawn $30,000 from her retirement account and had hired someone to carry out structural repairs to the rental house, which isn’t part of any historic preservation district.

She said that if she had been given the 30 days as promised in the letter, she could have saved the building. “I just wish they could carry out their business with a sense of compassion and realize they’re dealing with people, ” she said

MS: Mayor Gets Investigated

A federal investigation into whether Mayor Brent Warr broke the law when he received a grant to rebuild his home continues after more than a year.

Warr received a grant designed to help homeowners rebuild through the Mississippi Development Authority after Hurricane Katrina.

The feds want to know whether Warr’s damaged beachfront home was his primary residence.

To qualify for a homeowner grant of up to $150,000, an applicant had to prove they owned and lived in their home prior to Aug. 29, 2005. In addition, the applicant must prove the home was their primary residence through land deeds or personal bill statements.

AL: Another Katrina Loser

After Hurricane Katrina leveled his fish farm three years ago, Stan Hatcher might have seemed like a natural candidate for government rebuilding aid. As it turned out, he harvested more irony than assistance.

Even though his Grand Bay tilapia and crawfish business is just two miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Hatcher said, he received barely $1,000 from the program to help “aquaculture” producers. Catfish farmers 150 miles inland collected up to $80,000, an official list shows.

Most of the money to rebuild ultimately came out of his own pocket, he added. Production remains far below the roughly 15,000 pounds of fish sold in 2004.

Paradoxically, Hatcher appears to have been shortchanged by the easy-pay system adopted by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Rather than hand out more than $5 million in federal money on the basis of actual storm losses, state officials staked payments to the number of pond acres. Hatcher got credit for four acres.

As the Press-Register has previously reported, federal auditors rapped the state for that approach last year, saying it failed to ensure that farmers were treated equitably. Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, a Democrat, reiterated that his agency was simply trying to distribute the aid as quickly as possible.

MS: Housing Woes

In the three years since Katrina clobbered the Coast, nothing has been done to fix the problems inside Bullard’s public housing unit, for which she pays nearly $400 a month. In fact, none of the 75 barracks-style units at Woodland Park on Railroad Street have been touched.

Brown water stains darken her ceiling. A small white stove in the kitchen is rusty after three years under a leak. She uses old newspapers to sop up rainwater in the bedroom and moves plants and pots around to collect dripping water in the living room.

On Thursday, Bullard stood on her front lawn and told her story to Gov. Haley Barbour and HUD Secretary Steve Preston.

The government sent $105 million after Katrina to rehabilitate public housing on the Coast, and $2.9 million of that was for the Long Beach Housing Authority’s 75 units.

But in three years all that’s been done is some roof patching and other exterior touch-ups, and that work was largely funded by insurance money.

LBHA Executive Director LeNelle Davis said one of the biggest hurdles was a federal restriction on building public housing too close to railroad tracks. Davis said the LBHA wrestled with the government for more than a year and finally won approval to renovate the units, which have been there since 1969.

“All the units are going to be completely renovated,” she said.

The LBHA will solicit proposals from contractors in October and hopes to have all the units rehabilitated by 2010.