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In Setback for U. of Iowa, Audit Calls for Halt to Flood Rebuilding Projects

In a potential setback for the University of Iowa’s plans to rebuild music and arts facilities destroyed by a catastrophic flood in 2008, a federal audit has said the Federal Emergency Management Agency erred in promising federal funds to pay for the new buildings, the Associated Press reported. The audit, by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, says FEMA misinterpreted federal rules for deciding when to replace instead of repair damaged buildings and recommends that some $84-million in federal and state funds pledged to the rebuilding projects—the extra cost of replacing instead of repairing the damaged Hancher Auditorium, School of Music, and studio art buildings—should be diverted for “better use.”

In a statement on its Web site, the University of Iowa notes that the inspector general’s opinion is not binding and that FEMA’s national leaders will have an opportunity to respond. The regional FEMA office that made the initial calculation in favor of replacing the buildings has said it disagrees with the audit’s recommendations, and the national leaders have indicated that they support the regional decision, the university says. Iowa’s governor and members of Congress joined university officials in urging FEMA headquarters to respond to the audit quickly. “Project delays due to differing interpretations of federal policy four years after the flood are unacceptable, unwelcome, and counterproductive,” says a statement issued by Gov. Terry E. Branstad and the president of Iowa’s statewide Board of Regents, Craig A. Lang.

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