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Livingston Parish Sheriff frustrated with FEMA

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LIVINGSTON PARISH- The Livingston Parish Sheriff is one of many frustrated with FEMA. Sheriff Ard said his department had to put up money for deputies homes in an effort to keep flood-affected officers in the parish.

Eighty-five percent of Livingston Parish residents were affected by the August flood. Of the 107,000 people, 80 were Livingston Parish Sheriff's deputies. Most of those deputies spent their days during the flood helping others, while their homes were destroyed. Ard said it's something he hasn't forgotten.

"I think about it constantly. The deputies wiping tears away from their eyes," Ard said. "They just found out that they lost everything. They had nothing to go back to."

Since the days of the flood, those deputies have been put in hotels. Ard said when FEMA wouldn't fund the rooms, the community did.

"It just doesn't make sense to me why they can't think like a smart business person, and I'm not a smart business person, I'm just a common sense kinda guy."

The Sheriff got fed up waiting for FEMA's help, and took matters into his own hands. The department put out a bid for 25 mobile homes, costing the Livingston Parish taxpayers $35,000 each. An $875,000 bill that sounds a bit steep, at first.

"It doesn't take a scientist to look at numbers. I'm not an accountant, but I run a budget. Common sense tells me that's a pretty good deal."

The deal, marketing the mobile homes for sale. All 25 units, each expected to re-sell for around $28,000. That leaves the parish with a bill of just $175,000, or in FEMA terms, the equivalent cost of less than two FEMA trailers.

"We did everything that we could to go about setting up a FEMA trailer park, but then we just started getting the same thing, you just need to basically wait," Ard said.

Sheriff Ard said waiting could have been catastrophic to his department. A tough lesson learned a decade ago, when dozens of deputies moved to other departments following Hurricane Katrina. Ard is hoping FEMA will get the message, as the department still awaits funding for almost 30 vehicles lost in the flood.

If it had not been for a quick thinking Sheriff, 25 deputies would likely still be waiting on housing.


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