A-P School District may have to repay $970,000 in FEMA funds - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

A-P School District may have to repay $970,000 in FEMA funds

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PARKERSBURG (KWWL) -

FEMA is looking to recoup millions of dollars the department claims were improperly distributed. The Aplington-Parkersburg School District Superintendent said the agency is trying to recoup nearly $1 million in funding given to the district after the 2008 E-F5 tornado. That's about half the total FEMA funding the district received.

A-P is appealing, and lawmakers, including Senator Charles Grassley, are on the district's side. But Superintendent Jon Thompson is preparing for a worst case scenario -- repaying $970,000 they've already spent. The high school was destroyed in May 2008, and students returned to class in the same spot in the fall of 2009.

"We were in a situation where we didn't have a school, and we had school-age kids to educate. And our goal was to get back in our school within a year's time," Thompson explained.

The Aplington-Parkersburg community met its goal by moving faster than normal.

"We were actually tearing down and building before the architect finished the plans. Which is not the normal method. From the start they told us it would be covered," said Thompson.

Thompson said they did not move forward on anything without receiving FEMA approval.

"Our school board, and our school, and really our community, made decisions based on promises from three years ago. And to find out 2 1/2, three years later that those promises can be broken is really putting us in a bind," he explained.

About a year ago, a FEMA review committee declared some of the projects ineligible for funding. That's more than a year after they were completed. And if the district loses its appeal, it will have to come up with $970,000.

"What's going to be affected is our funds that we pay for our school buses and technologies. That'll be an issue in the years to come if we have to pay back this money," said Thompson.

But even through the frustration, Thompson remains optimistic about the purpose of the federal agency.

"FEMA's an organization put in place to help people. And they do. And even through all this I have to say -- we received $2 million in funding. If we have to give $1 million back, we still received a million," he said.

FEMA claims the disputed money is over a gymnasium at the middle school. FEMA approved a temporary one -- at a cost of more than a million dollars. The district decided to use $500,000 of its own money to make it a permanent structure. Thompson said FEMA initially approved the altered plans. Now the organization is disputing its construction.

Thompson also wanted to point out, the gymnasium funding only amounts to about a third of the total monies in question.

If the district loses it's appeal, Thompson is not sure what the payback guidelines would be. FEMA may require a lump sum, or want payments over a period of time.

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