Politics & Government

FEMA trailers: Even empty, they're costing $28 million a year

FEMA is spending $28 million a year to store travel trailers and mobile homes at five Mississippi sites while the agency determines whether they'll be reused or sold as scrap.

The work is not very far along and could run through 2011, based on renewal options for leases on the land. The cost covers land leases, utilities, security, operational costs and training at five South Mississippi sites, four of which are full and on "caretaker" status. Trailers are still being hauled to the fifth site, Hickory Grove, a hamlet near Hattiesburg.

"If you add up all the units we have, that's around 32,000 units for the Mississippi sites," said Gordon "Buzz" Hackett III, chief of FEMA's Logistics Operation Division. "In this case, I'd say we have the majority that we'll still be inspecting. Depending on how many teams are inspecting and the number of individuals, obviously, it could take some time for having that number, the 32,000."

FEMA representatives said the work was stalled by a federal lawsuit over formaldehyde in the trailers, but that obstacle has been cleared. So far 283 trailers have been identified as scrap, which means they have no value beyond the parts and should not be used as housing.

"It's not like we want to maintain these units on these sites," Hackett said. "We would rather be disposing of them and putting money back in the treasury, but because of formaldehyde and some other litigation, we were prohibited until recently of even disposing of these via scrap.

"And so, believe you me, we would really like to dispose of these as quickly as possible because we are all taxpayers in the end."

David Williams of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Citizens Against Government Waste, said the agency lacks proactive leadership.

Read the complete story at sunherald.com