Debris-removal contractors in St. Bernard say they haven't been - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Debris-removal contractors in St. Bernard say they haven't been paid

ST. BERNARD PARISH, La. - Sub-contractors like Donald Fernandez Jr. have worked since Hurricane Katrina in St. Bernard Parish picking up debris and demolishing properties.

"URG was the prime contractor for the demolition and debris removal for St. Bernard, and they hired local subs to perform the work," he said.

URG, or Unified Recovery Group, obtained a bid with St. Bernard for debris removal back in 2007 that would ultimately be paid for by FEMA. URG then hired its own sub-contractors to do the work.

"URG is who we're contracted with," said Parish President Dave Peralta. "They have to submit their invoices to us. We take those and submit them to FEMA. The money would then come to St. Bernard Parish, and we would pay the general contractor."

Peralta said the problem is that URG hasn't submitted invoices for its sub-contractor's work since Hurricane Isaac, thus preventing the parish from getting the FEMA reimbursements.

In the meantime, Fernandez said he has been waiting for years to get paid.

"It's been a constant backlog of money that we've been owned since 2007," he said. "They never caught up as far as our invoices left unpaid."

Fernandez said he has continued to work through Katrina, then Gustav and Isaac, but the money he was promised never came.

"It seems there's been some financial difficulties on the part of URG," Peralta said. "We were served last year around this time with a seizure order from the Internal Revenue Service telling us that any funds that we collect as a result of work done by URG, we must turn over to the Internal Revenue Service."

Peralta said with a lien from the IRS and no invoices in hand to collect the money from FEMA, the parish is out of options.

"We're in a stalemate because we can't accept an invoice from a sub," he said. "It has to come from the general contractor, in this case, URG. At this point, no one's getting paid."

URG, though, tells a different story.

The company said St. Bernard Parish owes Unified Recovery Group hundreds of thousands of dollars on invoices for work done over the past several years.

"It is Unified's understanding that St. Bernard now has the funds available to pay a significant amount, if not all, of what it owes to Unified," the company said in a statement.

Peralta said the parish is in a dispute with the company over damages it caused during its cleanup after Katrina.

As for the IRS lien, Unified said it's willing to meet with the parish and any lien-holder to resolve the situation immediately.

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