Satellite image of Hurricane Charley in 2004 - Photo courtesy of NOAA.

FEMA wants more than $14 million back from Charlotte County for Hurricane Charley damage

Next week marks 15 years since Hurricane Charley destroyed parts of Charlotte County, causing $15 billion in damage.

FEMA covered $62 million of the county’s losses but now it’s asking for millions back.

Thomas Brown, store manager at Sunshine Ace Hardware said he “never envisioned that total devastation, and that’s what it was.”

Brown hasn’t forgotten the destruction caused by Hurricane Charley, calling it “unanticipated, unimaginable, hard to comprehend.”

It took a year and a half to rebuild then- Morton’s Ace Hardware, now known as Sunshine Ace, and the reconstruction took even longer in other areas of the county.

FEMA initially reimbursed the county for $62 million in projects but sent a notice in June that it overpaid.

Gordon Burger is the director of budget services for Charlotte County and he says, “What they’re essentially saying is that our insurance payments should’ve covered these. We clearly demonstrated that none of the insurance payments overlapped with what we received from FEMA.”

The county says FEMA is seeking nearly $14.5 million for overpaying on certain projects, which they approved in 2012.

“We cannot understand because they signed off on these amounts. Now they are coming back and saying insurance should have covered all of it. But we didn’t receive enough insurance to cover all of it.” Burger said.

The county received $37 million in payments through insurance claims.

They also tell us they received little reimbursement from FEMA on damages from Hurricane Irma and worries FEMA will withhold that money if it can’t pay back the overpaid funds from Charley.

But Burger says they’re “documenting everything to a T,” but are still running into all kinds of issues with FEMA.

Now, they’re using those lessons learned to be ready for the next big storm.

The county has filed an appeal but says if it has to pay back the money it will dip into its reserves fund.

Burger added, “If our appeals gets denied, of course we will exercise every administrative option that we have.”

Reporter:Erika Jackson
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