ASFPM Comments on Public Assistance on docket ID FEMA-2016-0007
Proposed building standards when using Public Assistance funds submitted May 23, 2016
ASFPM has reviewed the proposed building standards that FEMA will require when entities are using Public Assistance (PA) funds. We have the following comments:
1. ASFPM supports the proposed standards in general. Ensuring taxpayer funds are only used in a way that protects the building to existing and expected future risk is critical. Utilizing the most current building codes is an important and wise step in this effort
2. Additionally, ASFPM has the following questions/concerns/suggestions:
a. How can FEMA ensure or facilitate that the local building code official has viable access to the latest version of these codes? The subject codes are usually available on line for a considerable fee. If FEMA is anxious for locals and states to use these codes, the cost for local/state officials to obtain them should be an eligible administrative cost under PA. The same should be true for the referenced ASCE standards, which are also not available, presenting the same issue when PA recipients are attempting to comply with the proposed standards.
b. If state or local governments have not adopted current codes, can technical assistance be provided for adopting/implementing the codes to build the capacity for adoption and implementation? These officials also need training in implementation, inspection, enforcement and recordkeeping to ensure compliance.
c. While we understand the importance of locking in the appropriate code at a certain date, we wonder if it may make more sense to use the date of the PA award, not the declaration date.
d. Furthermore, how will FEMA handle PA projects that take up to 10 years to implement (some in Katrina are 11 years). During that period of time there may have been 3 upgrades to the code, so using the old code may leave projects vulnerable with taxpayer exposure for the costs.
e. Another issue for FEMA to consider: States generally have a lag-time in adopting the new codes once released to accommodate public review, often mandated by the legislative regulatory process, and final adoption by the legislature. In this case, would a state or local applicant be forced to use a code which has not been formally adopted, creating potential legal issues for the applicant?
f. What considerations are there for historic structures? It may be that it is neither feasible nor cost-effective to bring a historic structure up to code. What kind of middle ground can be struck? Can FEMA provide expertise (i.e. historic architects and engineers) to help determine a more cost effective approach?
g. We support the tornado shelter requirement, but ask it should be required where tornado shelter design wind speeds are 160 miles per hour or more.
If there are questions on these comments, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Larry Larson at (608) 828-3000.