ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
64°
Partly Cloudy
H 83° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    64°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 83° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    80°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 83° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    75°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 83° L 63°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Business
AP EXCLUSIVE: Big contracts, no storm tarps for Puerto Rico
Close

AP EXCLUSIVE: Big contracts, no storm tarps for Puerto Rico

AP EXCLUSIVE: Big contracts, no storm tarps for Puerto Rico
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Giusti
In this Nov. 15, 2017 photo, Edgardo de León sits in his living room with a hole in the ceiling caused by the whip of hurricane Maria, in Cataño, Puerto Rico. A newly created Florida company with an unproven record won more than $30 million in contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for repairs to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. Bronze Star LLC never delivered those urgently needed supplies, which even months later remain in demand on the island. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

AP EXCLUSIVE: Big contracts, no storm tarps for Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria damaged tens of thousands of homes in Puerto Rico, a newly created Florida company with an unproven record won more than $30 million in contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for repairs.

Bronze Star LLC never delivered those urgently needed supplies, which even months later remain in demand by hurricane victims on the island.

FEMA eventually terminated the contracts, without paying any money, and re-started the process this month to supply more tarps for the island. The earlier effort took nearly four weeks from the day FEMA awarded the contracts to Bronze Star and the day it canceled them.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans remain homeless, and many complain that the federal government is taking too long to install tarps. The U.S. territory has been hit by severe rainstorms in recent weeks that have caused widespread flooding.

It is not clear how thoroughly FEMA investigated Bronze Star or its ability to fulfill the contracts. Formed by two brothers in August, Bronze Star had never before won a government contract or delivered tarps or plastic sheeting. The address listed for the business is a single-family home in a residential subdivision in St. Cloud, Florida.

One of the brothers, Kayon Jones, said manufacturers he contacted before bidding on the contracts assured him they could provide the tarps but later said they could not meet the government's requirements. Jones said supplying the materials was problematic because most of the raw materials came out of Houston, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. He said he sought a waiver from FEMA to allow him to order tarps from a Chinese manufacturer and for more time, but FEMA denied the request.

FEMA canceled the contracts Nov. 6, Jones said. The government notified his brother and him a few days later that it would seek $9.3 million in damages unless they signed a waiver releasing the U.S. from any liability. The brothers agreed.

"We were trying to help; it wasn't about making money or anything like that," Jones said.

FEMA awarded the company two contracts Oct. 10 to provide 500,000 tarps and 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting. More than a half dozen others also bid, but FEMA said it could not provide details about their bids.

"The award of a government contract to a company with absolutely no experience in producing the materials sought obviously raises very bright red flags," said Dan Feldman, professor of public management at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York. "I would hope and assume that the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security would begin immediately to take a very hard look at this process."

A FEMA spokesman, Ron Roth, said the agency's review process was "somewhat expedited" after Hurricane Maria to respond as quickly as possible to the emergency. But he said the agency did perform its due diligence.

"Submissions from potential contractors are objectively evaluated, and a contract is awarded based on the highest-rated submission," Roth said.

Such "best value" competitive solicitations take into account past performance and a contractor's ability to deliver as well as price, said Alan Miller, an attorney who spent 22-years advising federal contracting officials until retiring last year.

"In every circumstance, regardless of the award, whether it's $400 to the local stationery company for envelopes, or it's $400 million for a construction contract, the contracting officer is required to make a responsibility determination," Miller said. "Does this company have the infrastructure; do they have the inventory processes, the production processes, the financial capability, for performing the work?"

Nine bids were received on the first contract for plastic sheeting and eight bids on the second contract for tarps. Roth said Star was determined to be the most qualified.

"FEMA's initial technical evaluation determined Bronze Star could do the jobs based on their proposals, which confirmed that they could meet the product specifications and delivery dates," he said.

Kayon Jones, the co-owner of Bronze Star, served in the U.S. Navy from 1997 to 2000, finishing his duty as a seaman storekeeper on the USS Gettysburg, a guided missile cruiser. The contract solicitation gave preference to veteran-owned companies. According to Navy records, Jones was never awarded a Bronze Star, a medal earned by service members who serve heroically in combat.

In an interview, Jones told The Associated Press he picked the name because he has another company with the word star in it. He said his brother, who is also listed on state incorporation documents for the business, served in the Army and is disabled. Army records show Jones' brother also didn't receive a Bronze Star, and it provided no evidence of a service-related injury. Richard Jones did not respond to multiple calls and requests through his brother for comment.

"My brother and I, we are both veterans, so we just came up with a name to do business," Kayon Jones said. "We're not saying we have a Bronze Star or anything."

The day after FEMA canceled the Bronze Star contract, it awarded a contract to OSC Solutions Inc. for plastic sheeting for Hurricane Maria victims. The West Palm Beach, Florida-based company has roughly two decades of federal contracting experience and has produced such supplies multiple times.

The FEMA spokesman, Roth, acknowledged the contract problems delayed delivery of tarps to Puerto Rico but said anyone who needs a tarp should now be able to get one.

More than 93,000 tarps have been sent to distribution centers on the island and now are available to cover homes, Roth said. The Army Corps of Engineers' "Blue Roof" program has provided 11,000 more reinforced tarps installed on homes by contractors.

To date, roughly $88 million in federal money has been awarded to four contractors, including Bronze Star, for tents and tarps, records show. The rescinded contracts with Bronze Star account for 35 percent of the total.

Michael Byrne, Puerto Rico's FEMA coordination officer, estimated that at least 60,000 blue roofs are needed across the island. About 350 are installed each day, though he said that is expected to increase.

"One of the limiting factors is the availability of the material," Byrne said.

___

AP writer Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report. Follow Tami Abdollah on Twitter at https://twitter.com/latams and Michael Biesecker at https://twitter.com/mbieseck

___

Submit a confidential tip to The Associated Press at https://www.ap.org/tips/

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • While power has been restored to the world's busiest airport, the travel woes will linger for days.Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where more than 1,000 flights were grounded just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush.A sudden power outage caused by a fire in an underground electrical facility brought the airport to a standstill Sunday about 1 p.m.All outgoing flights, and arriving planes were held on the ground at their point of departure. International flights were being diverted, officials said.Delta Air Lines, with its biggest hub operation in Atlanta, will be hardest hit. By Sunday evening, Delta had already canceled nearly 900 flights and another 300 Monday, nearly all of them in Atlanta, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive, said it likely will be Tuesday before Delta's operations in Atlanta return to normal, and for passengers 'it could be most of the week' because there aren't many open seats on other flights in the last week before Christmas.One bit of good news, according to Mann: Delta has more spare planes and available crews in Atlanta than anywhere else, which will help it to recover.Also, Delta customers flying to or from Atlanta can make a one-time change to travel plans without incurring a $200 change fee. The airline also encouraged travelers not to pick up their bags Monday because of anticipated congestion at the airport.Still, when flights at Atlanta were grounded for most of one day last spring, it took Delta five days — and about 4,000 canceled flights — before it fully recovered.Like Sunday's outage, that April storm hit Delta's largest hub at a busy travel time when there weren't many empty seats to accommodate customers from cancelled flights. At the time, CEO Ed Bastian vowed Delta would make 'significant improvements' to its system for scheduling and tracking aircraft crews to recover more quickly from disruptions.Other airlines also canceled flights for the rest of Sunday. American Airlines canceled 24 departures and an equal number of arrivals, said spokesman Ross Feinstein. The airline also diverted three planes that were headed to Atlanta when the outage struck, sending them instead to Dallas, Nashville and back to Philadelphia.The city of Atlanta provide shuttle service to the Georgia Convention Center on Sunday for travelers in need of a place to stay.Delta passenger Emilia Duca, 32, was on her way to Wisconsin from Bogota, Colombia, when she got stuck in Atlanta. She said police made passengers who were in the baggage claim area move to a higher floor. She said restaurants and shops were closed. Vending machines weren't working.'A lot of people are arriving, and no one is going out. No one is saying anything official. We are stuck here,' she said. 'It's a nightmare.'Adding to the nightmare are what some passengers said was a lack of information from airport officials and help from first responders to get the disabled and the elderly through the airport without the use of escalators and elevators.'They had these elderly people, handicapped people lined up in wheelchairs,' said stranded passenger Rutia Curry. 'The people were helpless, they can't get down the stairs. It was just a nightmare.'Passenger James Beatty said there was no real method for evacuation.'I mean there was 40 or 50 people per the terminal area that were confined to wheelchairs and some that couldn't get through the airport very well, some of them actually couldn't walk and there was no plan at all to get them out of here without any power.'Beatty said passengers carried those who used wheelchairs down stairs.The FAA said it would staff the airport control tower throughout the night so that it can handle flights once they resume. The FAA said the tower could operate normally but flights were affected because airport equipment in the terminals was not working.According to a Georgia Power statement, the utility believes a piece of equipment in an underground electrical facility may have failed, causing the fire. The fire was next to equipment for a backup system, causing that to also fail.'No personnel or passengers were in danger at any time,' the statement said.No areas outside of the airport were affected by the power loss. The utility said there are 'many redundant systems in place' to ensure the power supply to the airport and that such outages at the airport 'are very rare.'That wasn't enough to comfort Jeff Smith, 46, of Pittsburgh, who ended up stuck in a plane on the tarmac for three hours after it landed.'This is the worst experience I've ever had at an airport,' he said.Sara Melillo, who was traveling to Pittsburgh from Kenya, where she lives with her husband, Greg Presto, to spend Christmas with his family were stuck on the tarmac for six hours. The couple had made stops in Nairobi and Amsterdam and landed shortly after the lights went out in Atlanta.She said the pilot didn't have a lot of information for the travelers but the plane had air conditioning and attendants offered water and juice a few times. She described the Delta terminal as 'big chaos' with not enough customer service for the hundreds of people trying to find a flight to their next destination and a place to sleep for the night.With her new boarding pass handwritten and her bags still stuck on a plane, Melillo was hopeful that she and her husband would be able to get a flight in the morning to Pittsburgh, she said as she waited for an Uber to take them to a hotel.Airport workers were distributing bottled water, and Dunkin' Donuts was giving out doughnuts.Officer Lisa Bender of the Atlanta Police Department said officers were at the airport to help with crowd control and managing traffic around the airport.At Southwest Airlines, about 70 Atlanta departures out of 120 scheduled for Sunday were canceled, an airline spokesman said in an email. United Airlines and JetBlue Airways were among carriers reporting delays or cancellations.American Airlines reported only a handful of diversions and cancellations because the carrier does not use Atlanta as a hub, airline spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello.Hartsfield-Jackson, which serves 104 million passengers a year, is the world's busiest airport, a distinction it has held since 1998.The airport serves an average of 275,000 passengers daily, according to its website. Nearly 2,500 planes arrive and depart each day.___AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas, Texas, contributed to this report.
  • 12:06 A.M. DEC. 18 UPDATE:  Power has been restored on all concourses. More than 5,000 meals are being delivered to passengers. Trains will be operational soon. 11:20 P.M. UPDATE: Power has been restored to the airport’s Atrium and Concourses T, A and B.  10:30 P.M. UPDATE: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says all passengers have been allowed to get off planes that have been stranded for hours.  9:45 P.M. UPDATE: Delta Air Lines cancels 300 flights on Monday. 9 P.M. UPDATE: Mayor Kasim Reed started off an evening news conference with an apology. “First and most importantly, I was to express my sincere apologies to the thousands of passengers whose day has been disrupted in this manner,” he said. “We certainly understand that the outage has caused frustration and anger, and we’re doing everything that we can to get folks back home right away.” Reed said the outage started shortly after 1 p.m., at one of the three Georgia Power substations at the airport. It was caused by an electrical fire that started some time between 12:30 and 12:45 p.m. 8:30 P.M. UPDATE: The Federal Aviation Administration will retain normal staffing in  the Air Traffic Control Tower at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the airport is open and accepting general aviation and cargo operations. Air traffic controllers also will be ready to handle commercial flights as soon as they resume. 8:25 P.M. UPDATE: Mayor Kasim Reed will hold a press conference at 8:30 at the Airport Emergency Operations Center along with Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers, Police Chief Erika Shields and airport General Manager Roosevelt Council about the power outage at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the multi-agency, coordinated response effort. 7:40 P.M. UPDATE: Mayor Kasim Reed has tweeted: Power at Concourse F is back on. If you are in another concourse, please remain there. We have an additional update on when full power will be restored from. ORIGINAL STORY: Nearly six hours after a power outage began at Hartsfield-Jackson international Airport, officials said a fire likely caused the outage. But the cause of the outage is still not confirmed, officials with Georgia Power said. Atlanta police sent extra officers to help. >> Read more trending news “We are aware of the situation and are assisting with crowd control and helping to manage traffic around the airport,” police spokeswoman officer Lisa Bender said. All flights were canceled,and baggage is being held in a secure area for future pickup, said Rick Crotts, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor who was stuck on a plane for hours. Camp Creek Parkway was also shut down, and Atlanta police discouraged anyone from heading toward the airport. Inside the airport, a swirling mass of people waited in an aimless pattern, trying to get cellphone signals in a darkening airport as passengers sat stranded in parked planes on the tarmac. The terminals were pitch black and people had to use cellphones to light their path. People in wheelchairs had to be carried down stopped escalators and stairwells.  Delta Air Lines released a statement, saying, in part, that the outage was ongoing and they were “working to deplane customers from aircraft that have not been able to park at a gate due to the outage.” Olivia Dorfman described by phone to The AJC what she witnessed in Concourse D when the power went out.  “Maybe 10 minutes later a buzzer went off in the background -- that has been going on for over an hour and every so often bright lights flash in the ceiling,” Dorfman said. Near the D9A gate, she said smoke filled the area, and at different times airport workers tried to herd passengers toward the smoky area and away from it. “This has been very bizarre,” she said. “No one seems to know what they’re doing.” After at least one other woman said she wouldn’t stand in the area that smelled of acrid smoke, as if from an electrical fire, because she suffers from asthma. She and others then walked back toward the gate, Dorfman said.  “A man is just yelling, ‘Go this way,’” Dorfman said.  She said the stores weren’t able to sell water or other items because of the power outage. “It’s unbelievable. This is the busiest airport,” Dorfman said. Malou Cadavillo and her 16-month-old granddaughter sat in the dark at Hartsfield-Jackson on a motionless luggage carousel, waiting. Her grandchild’s car seat looked like it would never arrive.  She described her family’s journey from the gate where they arrived in the afternoon to the terminal as a scary odyssey. They walked through the dark corridor between concourses, guided by the lights of other people’s cellphones, as smoke poured in from some unknown source. Her grandsons, 7 and 11, were uneasy. “I hope there’s no monsters down here,” one said.  Her son-in-law Michael Rances said emergency preparedness at the airport was unsatisfactory. “There was nobody there to tell you what to do,” he said.  Nearby, a group of Delta pilots stood conferring.  “This is gonna take hours,” said one. “Days,” said another.  Crotts, who was aboard Flight 3392 that arrived at the airport at 1:31 p.m., was among passengers waiting aboard their flights to reach a gate. Crotts' flight had been waiting for more than two hours when crews brought a ladder and started getting people off the plane, he said. Andy Gobeil, a spokesman for the airport, said officials weren’t sure what happened. “We have not determined what caused it,” Gobeil said. Atlanta fire officials and others are “trying to determine how long it will take to get everything up and running.”  Passenger Norman Radow emailed The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after he heard an announcement at the airport that all flights through Atlanta from Johnson City were canceled. “To quote the announcer, ‘I recommend you rebook on Tuesday as it will take days for us to get out of this mess,’” Radow said. He was hopeful his flight wouldn’t be canceled. John Reetz, a passenger on Flight 5297, said his was one of more than 40 planes parked on the tarmac, waiting for power to be restored. At first, the pilot told passengers there was no estimate on when the power would be restored, Reetz said in an email. At the time, passegners were in a generally good mood, but at least one joked that he didn’t have to use the restroom until he saw a line.  That was after only 45 minutes, Reetz said.  Later, an officer onboard the flight told passengers, '’This looks like it's going to be a longer process now instead of a shorter one,’” Reetz said. “We're going to be here for a while unfortunately.'  Ina Bond, 72, was at her wit’s end after having been stranded on the tarmac for three hours. “With water and pretzels and a nasty bathroom,” she said. Looking for a taxi to find a hotel to spend the night after her connecting flight to Delray Beach, Florida, was canceled, Bond could get no information from airport officials.  “I passed a whole line of policemen, and none of them could tell me anything,” she said. 
  • A man is in the hospital after being shot in the head near the Central Florida fairgrounds Saturday afternoon.   The shooting happened at the vehicle repair shop at 617 Delhi Street around 1:20pm.    First responders say they transported a man in his 30s to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.    Deputies have said the man's injuries are life threatening and are working to piece together what led to the shooting.
  • An armed man is still at large after robbing and shooting at a Maitland gas station employee.   The incident occurred just before 11 a.m. at the Shell gas station at 500 South Orlando Avenue. The employee was counting money in the back and the man came in and pointed a gun at the clerk.    The worker ran from the store, and the robber fired a shot, but missed the worker, shattering the glass front door.    The suspect was able to get some money and fled the scene with two others, heading north on US 17-92 in a red Nissan Altima, which has a South Carolina license plate.    Police are reviewing surveillance video to gather more information about the incident and the people involved.    Anyone with information is asked to call Maitland police at 407-539-6262 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS(8477)
  • On 11/20/2017 around 9 a.m., the victim, a tourist from Scotland, was walking towards his hotel at 7600 International Drive, when a black male suspect tried to take his bag. The suspect was able to get some money and fled on foot.   The victim stated that the suspect was on the same Lynx bus with him and observed the suspect was with a heavier set black female while on the bus.    The male suspect is believe to be between the ages of 18 to 25, is average built with a short afro, about 6 feet tall with facial hair, and was wearing a black hooded jacket and carrying a red book bag.    The female companion is between the ages of 25 to 30, is heavy set, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and was wearing a gray sweatshirt that reads 'Florida Orlando'.    There is a reward up to a thousand dollars to anyone with any information leading to the identification of the suspect.    If you have any information, you are urged to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS(8477).