Flood grant mess swamps local residents
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
by Lisa Donovan
More than two years after record rains sent storm
and sewer water in to his finished basement, Park Ridge resident Charles
Melidosian is working through another flood mess.
Construction crews took out the ceiling, drywall
and floors last September as part of a repair and mold remediation
project, paid for with a $10.3 million federal grant aimed at helping
Chicago and suburban residents hit hardest by the 2008 floods.
Today, the basement is a shell, with construction halted and no immediate plans to resume work.
“Our house is cold,” Melidosian, a 44-year-old
married father of three says, noting that the basement insulation was
removed during demolition. “Our garage is filled with storage from the
basement, so our cars are in our driveway. It’s reduced our house by a
Getting to the heart of the problem is something of a bureaucratic nightmare.
Cook County is supposed to put the money up for
work as it’s completed — then seek reimbursement from the state, which
is administering the federal grant.
But the construction manager for Melidosian’s
project and others across the northwest suburbs says the county stopped
forking over the money to pay contractors last fall — under the
administration of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.
That’s according to Holly Fraccaro, executive
director for North West Housing Partnership. The non-profit is among
five regional agencies serving as construction managers for
It’s unclear why the money spigot was turned off. Stroger couldn‘t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Newly minted Cook County Board President Toni
Preckwinkle inherited the flood grant mess and, according to a
spokeswoman, the county has released just under $10 million to the
Now the administration is sorting through a mess of
paperwork to be sure there is truly some remaining funds that could be
used to cover some projects that are in limbo.
“There may some remaining money and we have to
decide how that will be spent going forward,” said Preckwinkle
spokeswoman Jessey Neves.
Preckwinkle’s staff, dealing with myriad problems
related to the flood grant, had no information about Melidosian or any
other resident’s project.
On Monday, Preckwinkle, had to meet with the
Illinois Department of Human Services — the administrators of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services flood grant — about a freeze on
reimbursements to the county. The freeze was the result of the Stroger
administration submitting incomplete invoices.
Both Preckwinkle’s staff and DHS Secretary Michelle
Saddler described the meeting as “productive” and said that the county
is putting a team together to make sure reimbursement forms are
submitted to the state by the end of April.
Otherwise the money would come out of county
coffers — an added financial burden as Cook County works to close a $487
million gap in this year’s projected $3 billion-plus budget.
“The urgency is two-fold, the county needs to be
reimbursed by the state and the people need to get their work finished,”
Preckwinkle spokesperson Jessey Neves told the Sun-Times.
For Melidosian, among 900-plus Cook County
residents who qualified for repairs and other aid under the grant, it’s a
He fears a change order that bumped his $31,000
repair project to $52,000 — the result of mandates that electrical and
other work be done to meet current building code requirements — was
never properly submitted and that the work won’t be finishsed.
All of this has delayed the delivery of a new
washer, dryer and freezer — also paid for with grant money — to replace
the appliances that were submerged in raw sewage during the floods, he
“It will be nice to have it cleaned up and remediated, and I guess there’s a pain and penalty that comes with that,” he said.