Gowanda Seeks Help With FEMA Paperwork

GOWANDA – For the village of Gowanda, filling out Federal Emergency Management Agency paperwork is not a new task.

After flooding this past May, the village is facing FEMA paperwork similar to 2009. To help with the paperwork this time, the village is researching consulting firms.

During a special meeting Thursday night, the Gowanda Village Board met with representatives from Simmons Recovery Consulting. Ryan Frykholm, director of business development, and Ron Simmons, president, gave a brief overview of services available to the village.

For the services retained from Simmons Consulting, the village may be reimbursed for some of the fees associated with the contract. Simmons explained the consulting firm will work with the village on all paperwork for FEMA to ensure submissions are consistent with FEMA deadlines. Simmons said the firm also monitors the paperwork to ensure there are no errors.

“We function as advocates for your recovery. Our strategic goal is to represent your interests,” he said.

Disaster Coordinator Nick Crassi asked what the success rate of the firm. According to Simmons, they have received millions of dollars for about 30 clients over the last seven years. The company also charges an hourly rate but is reimbursable for direct costs. Frykholm said the company mainly works with direct costs – about 85 percent of the work – so for about every $1 charged, the village will only pay about 26 cents.

“FEMA reimburses for direct cost … basically any task that is attributable to a grant or working on any administrative task. An indirect cost is something like providing the board with a progress report of the entire disaster … 50 percent of our efforts are direct (costs),” Simmons said.

The village has about $850,000 in damage with the majority at the reservoir from the May flood, according to Crassi. Both Crassi and Mayor Heather McKeever had concerns about what damage would be considered as direct costs and eligible for reimbursement by FEMA. The village, the Gowanda Central School District and the town of Persia could all contract with Simmons Recovery but all would be a separate contract. An initial payment would be needed and then the village would be sent an invoice every few weeks by the company. Simmons said some municipalities take out a revenue anticipation note to pay for the services upfront.

While the village board wanted more information and references from Simmons Consulting, McKeever said she was in favor of hiring the company to have someone who knows the “loopholes” making sure the village gets the most money from FEMA.

“(The FEMA paperwork) is a lot on (the disaster coordinator’s) shoulders. That’s a lot on (Engineer) Mark Burr’s shoulders, the office staff shoulders. These mitigation projects we might make be able to make more of it than we could have if we have people who know the loopholes,” McKeever said.

The village board will meet again on Tuesday to discuss the matter further.