The Wilkinson Terrace apartments in Shreveport, on which $1.5 million in Obama stimulus funds was spent to renovate buildings about to be torn down, has come in just behind the Veterans Administration’s $175 million for upkeep on buildings it doesn’t use in this year’s Wastebook report, an update on unnecessary federal government expenses put out by the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
The Wilkinson Terrace fiasco comes off as a major honey pot for several building contractors connected to city government in Shreveport in the Wastebook writeup…
The city of Shreveport, Louisiana misspent $1.5 million in stimulus funds on mold remediation for a housing complex it was considering for demolition, according to a federal audit.
To obtain the stimulus money, the city‘s housing authority promised the federal government it would spend the money on improving a number of low-income homes it managed. Those projects included a mere $100,000 for combating mold and mildew at an apartment complex named Wilkinson Terrace.
More than ten months after awarding the grant to Shreveport, officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development noticed the city had failed to spend most of the money. Under the rules of the stimulus, the money was to have been spent within one year. The agency reminded Shreveport that the funds needed to be put to work, or they would be rescinded.
In the span of a few weeks, Shreveport officials cut contracts worth over $1.5 million for mold remediation at Wilkinson Terrace – fifteen times what they told the feds they would spend, and much more than a site facing possible demolition likely deserved. As the HUD Inspector General noted in an audit of the troubled grant, ―if the Authority‘s ultimate plan was to demolish the Wilkinson Terrace site in the next few years, the prudency of its decision. . . should be further questioned.
What‘s more, when the IG‘s investigators examined Wilkinson Terrace, it found the contractors had failed to do the work properly. ―[T]he inspected units had what appeared to be pest excrement caked on surfaces that were to have been cleaned and disinfected, the IG wrote.
The audit concluded that Shreveport should return over $1.1 million in misspent federal funds. The city disputes the IG‘s findings.
Of course, the Feds bear the responsibility for including mold remediation at Wilkinson Terrace when it was slated for demolition. But the fact that the city had an opportunity to save the federal government money we don’t have by returning it, and instead threw away cash on contractors who were ultimately arrested, makes one wonder if the Shreveport Housing Authority should exist at all.