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Thursday, September 29, 2022


It would take about $7 million to complete the roof repairs to qualifying homeowners under the Home Protection Roofing Program, but the territory will have to be creative to come up with that money.
About $1 million will be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for hazard mitigation that could be applied toward the roofing program, but that won’t be available until September, according to Charles Bornman, project manager for the roofing program.
Bornman testified before a Senate committee Wednesday night to clarify the status of the program. He has also provided a 32-page report for the Senate's review, along with documentation providing actual contractors' bid sheets.
He said Thursday that the turnout at the hearing was disappointing, noting, “There was only one homeowner there.”
Bornman said another $1.5 million may be available through Plan A encumbrances and the escrow account established from money turned back in by people who previously received money from FEMA to fix their roofs, but didn’t.
Plan A involved an independent contractor who bid on the roofing job and was awarded the $13.5 million contract, according to Bornman.
However, as the project got started, Bornman explained, it became apparent there was work that had to be done to the houses, such as electrical or interior wall extension, that was not in the original bid. The V.I. government asked the contractor to do the work. He refused. The government and the contractor came to an agreement to void the contract.
It is likely, Bornman noted, that money was encumbered to cover the initial work on Plan A, which involved 22 houses. He projected that figure might have been $5 million and Plan A used up $4.1, explaining the balance of $900,000 that may be available to the roofing program. The actual existence of the money has not been verified, however.
Bornman referred questions on it to Daisy Millin, hazard mitigation specialist with the Office of Management and Budget, who said she was not allowed to speak with the media.
The other $600,000 from the escrow account had been identified and is available, Bornman said.
As for the other $4.5 million that will be required to complete work on qualifying homes, Bornman said other grants are available from FEMA, and those should be investigated.
“We have demonstrated the (roofing) program is a success,” he said. “FEMA created a video of the project -— that says it was a success.”
Bornman also suggested the Senate should consider a loan against the $1 million in mitigation money in order to rebuild some of the remaining 104 roofs before hurricane season begins June 1.
Bornman explained that the $1 million is a given. It is an automatic payment based on 15 percent of all damages done by Hurricane Georges.
The Virgin Islands has until March 24 to submit all the “disaster” figures from Georges, but then it could take until September for the grant to be processed and payment made.
Bornman said there is a lot of confusion about the figures on the program. After $4 million that was paid out under the abandoned Plan A portion of the program and other costs such as payroll and engineering costs, the actual money available under Plan B was $19.5 million.
“That works out to about $62,000 to $63,000 per roof,” Bornman said.
Marc Biggs, acting commissioner of Property and Procurement, said he is working with OMB to identify programs and grants that “we might qualify for” and once those are identified they will apply for them.
Biggs also said everything appears to be in order with the program. All the amounts paid out, he said, are in line items, so it should be easy to audit the report.

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