Following a series of articles in the New Orleans Times-Picayune detailing mold in Southern University at New Orleans facilities and its impact on employee illness and fatalities, the campus will receive $82 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for new campus construction.
According to the Times-Picayune, Congressman Cedric Richmond announced the new funding last week following the publishing of the first article in the SUNO investigative series.
In December 2014, FEMA determined four buildings on campus – the W. Brown Hall Old Science Building, the Multipurpose Building, the New Science Classroom Building and the Clark Hall Education Building – were eligible for replacement because the cost of repairing them exceeded the cost of replacing them by more than 50 percent.
The Facility Planning and Control office elected not to replace the buildings. Instead, it requested and received a consolidated sub-grant under the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 for more than $82 million, including administrative fees, according to FEMA.
SUNO Chancellor Victor Ukpolo, who did not offer comment in the original Times-Picayune series, issued a statement yesterday responding to the reporting, calling into question ‘inaccuracies’ and citing the FEMA funding as part of the road to recovery for the institution in the years following Hurricane Katrina.
Contrary to the insinuations in the recent articles, SUNO never placed the lives of its employees or students at risk. Employees only occupied facilities that were deemed safe by the state. Concerns expressed by employees were addressed in a variety of ways, including environmental testing, remediation, and moving employees to other spaces out of an abundance of caution.
A few years ago, state officials declared that the Multi-Purpose Building and three other buildings would be demolished and subsequently replaced with new buildings. The awarding of $82 million in additional FEMA recovery grants for SUNO to construct four new buildings recently announced by Congressman Cedric Richmond represents a major feat. This was an arduous process which lasted over several years, and triumphantly takes us from simply recovering to now thriving for both the immediate and long-term future.
SUNO officials say groundbreaking on the first buildings will happen within the next few months.
Source: HBCU Digest