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CSUN to Get $63 Million for Quake Repair in FEMA Fast-Track Program

November 21, 1997|CLAIRE VITUCCI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NORTHRIDGE — Cal State Northridge will receive $63 million in federal and state disaster aid under a fast-track program designed to more quickly allocate money for earthquake repairs while saving the government the administrative costs of monitoring construction, it was announced Thursday.

Under the Grant Acceleration Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency allocated a one-time sum based on an estimate of what it will cost to repair or rebuild four buildings damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Once the university accepts the money, school officials cannot go back and ask FEMA for more funding for those projects. Damage to other buildings is covered under other programs.

Bureaucratic headaches such as damage survey reports and ongoing engineering studies are eliminated, and because FEMA incurs fewer administrative costs, the federal agency passes those savings on to the university, said Arthur Elbert, the university's vice president of administration and finance.

He estimated the university will receive $10 million more in disaster aid than it would have received without the pilot program, which was started several months ago.

"It saves FEMA a lot of time and a lot of expenses and gives much more certainty for the users so you know how much money you have to work with," Elbert said.

The settlement was praised by Vice President Al Gore as an example of positive partnership between federal, state and local governments. "This settlement means that the California State University campus will be restored sooner than would be otherwise possible," Gore, who heads the Clinton administration's National Performance Review program, said in a statement distributed by FEMA.

It marks the first settlement under the program for public facilities damaged during the Northridge earthquake.

With the funding, the university will repair the Administration Building, which will become a students service building; demolish University Tower Apartments to make way for a technology center and health building, and build an arts, media and communication building on the site where the fine arts building was torn down during the summer.

Elbert said the university can spend the FEMA money on anything from physical repairs to new office furniture. And if CSUN spends less than it is allocated, the university doesn't have to give it back.

According to a quarterly report prepared by the university's chief contractor for earthquake repairs, as of Aug. 31, the estimated cost to repair all campus quake damage is $328.7 million. As of that date, CSUN had received $277.9 million from the state and FEMA, and had spent $196.4 million.

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