Written by Jeff Lipton
As questions continue to swirl around the funding for the $44.2 million boardwalk reconstruction in Long Beach, federal officials said they are combing through the cost for materials being used to rebuild the deck.
Follow Long Beach Patch on Facebook.
At City Council meetings, Long Beach residents have questioned how much of the tab the Federal Emergency Management Agency is willing to pick up, even though Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has said he was confident the federal government would fully reimburse the city.
FEMA spokesman Ray Perez said the cost estimates for the decking material – a mixture of tropical hardwood and concrete proposed by the city – is about 11 times more expensive than the price tag of the Southern Yellow Pine material used on the previous boardwalk.
“Therefore, FEMA is in the process of examining these costs carefully for conformance with program eligibility requirements,” he said.
“While FEMA makes all efforts to make swift determinations on grant funding projects that will provide support to local governments in their recovery, FEMA must serve as a responsible steward of federal taxpayer dollars,” Perez added.
Perez said FEMA provides funds to restore damaged public facilities struck by disaster if they meet certain eligibility requirements. He said President Obama has approved a federal cost-share increase from 75 to 90 percent for Hurricane Sandy projects in New York funded by FEMA. The increase allows FEMA to reimburse 90 percent of the eligible costs, with the remaining 10 percent coming from state and local sources.
“In accordance with federal guidelines, FEMA is working closely with the City of Long Beach to identify eligible materials, costs and scope of work for reconstruction of the boardwalk,” said Perez.
According to Perez, the project’s final cost has not yet been determined, adding that since the project is under review, a finalized cost estimate has not yet been approved.
Perez said a decision will be made soon on the materials issue, but said he could not give a precise date for that determination.
In late July, before the first section of the reconstructed boardwalk was reopened, Schumer said he would stay on top of FEMA to make sure the project will be financed by the federal agency.
“But because we have wisely put in the FEMA package bill money for remediation, which means building things back better, I am fully confident that I will win my fight with FEMA and get every penny that this boardwalk costs reimbursed by the federal government –100 percent,” Schumer said at the time.
The reconstruction of the 2.2-mile boardwalk is slated to be finished in November. Nearly a mile of the new boardwalk has been completed and opened to the public. The decking consists of a stronger and more durable Brazilian hardwood, which has a lifespan of about 40 years, engineers working on the project have said. The planks on the previous boardwalk had a lifespan of three to seven years and required more maintenance, they said.
City officials did not return calls for comment.
(This story was originally posted at 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 15.)