The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Mr. $475-an-hour — who became Mr. $225-an-hour — still a vital cog in the city’s drive to get all it can from FEMA

In City Hall, FEMA, Floods on May 14, 2009 at 9:58 am

The City Council approved a contract extension last night for John Levy.

The extension takes Levy’s contract through June 30, adds $186,400 to the cost of it and brings the total cost to $786,400. The contract began Oct. 1.

Levy showed up at City Hall even as flood water was receding last June. He came with disaster experience from Hurricane Katrina and a message: Experience makes all the difference for cities if they are to make sure they get all they deserve in flood-disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Levy was then an executive with an entity called Globe Midwest, and after the city hired him, he achieved a measure of celebrity when it became noted that the city was paying the firm $475 an hour for Levy’s services.

In the first three months after the flood, the city paid Globe Midwest $691,000.

The city had a parallel contract for other flood-recovery duties with a second disaster-services firm, Adjusters International, to which the city had paid $645,000 in the first three months of recovery.
Last September, the city put the contracts up for new bids. Several firms competed, but Adjusters International won one contract, and Levy, who created his own company, Base Tactical Disaster Recovery, won the second contract. The new contract, at least at its inception, called for Levy’s new firm to get paid $225 an hour for his services.

In a memo this week to the City Council, city staff members note that Levy’s current contract extended through Jan. 9, 2009, and had been extended twice, through May 9, at no additional cost.

The city says Levy matters.

At a Veterans Memorial Commission meeting earlier this week, Levy was center stage as commission members challenged City Manager Jim Prosser about why renovations to the city’s flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall on May’s Island hadn’t yet begun. The city has suggested the building has had $25 million in damage.

Prosser called on Levy.

Levy explained the negotiation that cities and FEMA engage in as they come to some agreement on how much damage has occurred to a building. The city has weighed in with its “worksheet” on the damages, while FEMA is still working on its worksheet. FEMA was preparing for a fourth visit to the building, he said. Negotiations then would follow. After that, a second process takes place in which the city presents its plan on how it will mitigate against flood damage to the building in the future, Levy said.

Prosser noted that the city estimates it may have as much as $500 million in damage to its public buildings and facilities. Moving FEMA by a few percentage points on the size of damages is worth millions of dollars to the city, he noted.

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  1. What a waste of taxpayers money. Has anyone bothered to ask the public if this contract should be extended? Why is it that for months nothing has been done for the veterans building and then hours before his contract whould have expired he notifiys the commission that FEMA wants to go in again? Why is it that the city is so unwilling to help SAVE the veterans building? Could it be because they don’t want to have to go back in the offices there? That they want a NEW multi-million dollar building? “Why is it that Palo can be DONE and CR isn’t even started yet? Palo didn’t have consultants. I think Levy should go and take the rest of the City Counsel and Mr. Processor with him.

  2. BTW- it looked like Mr Levy was busy back peddling at the last meeting and covering his own butt but what do I know I’m just an ordinary voter……

  3. As others have noted in comments on other stories, the idea that we need to pay a consultant to help us essentially bilk the federal government out of tax dollars that we, as citizens, pay into anyway, is laughable. The City would rather pay a consultant $200+/hour to ensure that FEMA pays for over-priced electrical service and to help guarantee that we can suckle at the Federal teat for as long as possible.

    Never mind all of the hassles that we’ve had actually being able to get Federal dollars through Des Moines and into Cedar Rapids. Never mind the fact that we’re going to force the Fed to spend millions of dollars to delay a process rather than take it upon ourselves to actively support recovery efforts. Never mind all of that. And pay no attention to the man behind the green curtain.

    If the options were to fix a single building ourselves, within 18 months of the flood, for $5 million of our own money and $10 million in federal money, or fix it in 48 months, with no money out of our pocket and $20 million in Federal money, the current leadership seems to prefer the latter choice, to the detriment of the economic health and morale of the rest of the City of Cedar Rapids.

    I once believed that the MidWest was one of the few places left in this country where people did for themselves, and fixed things themselves when anything went awry. The leadership in Cedar Rapids has strayed far away from that ideal, and is taking down the rest of the City with it. Unfortunately, we have another full building season for this lunacy to continue before any substantial changes can be made, and I fear that we may be too far beyond help by the time November gets here to come back from the hole we’re digging ourselves into.

  4. I’m really curious about the actual number when it is all said and done. FEMA -v- The City of Cedar Rapids. This will answer many questions. Also, to a certain degree FEMA is a reimbursement program. The County has paid its funds for the rebuilding to date,; I’m not sure they have received any FEMA monies. The County and City are in two entirely different financial situations.

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