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University of Iowa still awaits final word on FEMA funding for replacements

Diane Heldt, CR Gazette –

There’s still no final word from Homeland Security regarding replacement funding for three University of Iowa facilities damaged in the 2008 flood.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency in August officially sided with the UI in a federal dispute about funding for three flood replacement projects at the university. But the final decision now rests with the federal Homeland Security office.

The August backing from FEMA “was the last that we’ve heard, too. So we’re waiting,” said Lucinda Robertson, spokeswoman with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division.

There is no timeline or deadline on the final decision regarding the funding, she said. At stake in the dispute is more than $83 million in funding that had been obligated to the UI for the replacement at new locations of Hancher Auditorium, the School of Music and Art Building East.

In the meantime, UI officials have postponed the groundbreaking on the Hancher replacement until a to-be-decided date, to await resolution of the funding dispute. The Hancher groundbreaking had been scheduled for Oct. 19, but UI President Sally Mason last month said UI officials now are “waiting on that final word so we can go ahead.”

UI officials have said they do not expect this to delay the new Hancher completion date, set for December 2015.

The funding dispute stems from a June report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, which said FEMA should not pay to replace the three flood-damaged UI buildings at new locations, and that FEMA made mistakes in the process.

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