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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

Click here for bios of the reporters and media producers who have worked on the series.

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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- The storm that left this region drowning in debt and need also inundated it with some infamous examples of government spending.

From oak-lined Waveland Avenue to the quaint cottages of St. Charles Street in Bay St. Louis, the Katrina-wrought equivalents of the proverbial $600 toilet seat, courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are everywhere to be seen. Behold:

--Rooftop after rooftop covered with blue plastic sheeting at an average cost to taxpayers somewhere north of $2,500 a pop.

--Dozens of temporary classrooms provided for nearly $90,000 apiece by an out-of-state contractor in a deal that a Mississippi firm says it offered to match for just over half that price. Tack on tens of thousands of dollars more in additional costs for each unit.

--Thousands of shiny new travel trailers provided at an average cost of nearly $14,000, but often requiring thousands of more dollars each in site preparation and being delivered through programs castigated repeatedly by lawmakers as inefficient and wasteful.

-- And unseen, to the east, floats the most infamous example of all, a cruise ship whose occupants at latest count included 23 Hancock County families, housed in a deal where the tab is currently running as high as $1,000 a day for a family of four.

In a Spartan office atop Bay St. Louis’ makeshift City Hall, Mayor Eddie Favre can only roll his eyes at how some of Uncle Sam’s money has been spent while his town desperately pleads for state and federal help to meet an operating budget left staggeringly short of revenue after the Aug. 29 hurricane.

“The cost of it is unbelievable,” Favre says of the trailers, tarps and cruise ships. “The alternative to that, I don’t know, but that’s quite a bit of money.”

A number of lawmakers and watchdog groups have called for probes of some of the FEMA spending. Final cost won’t be known for a while, but information from FEMA itself and other sources reveal some of the particulars.

No blues over this paycheck
The tarps covering Hancock County homes are part of FEMA’s Operation Blue Roof, 99 percent complete in Mississippi, according to a recent release from the agency, with 48,000 of the temporary roofs installed. Nationwide, according to news accounts, the government paid contractors $2,500 on average for the labor to cover each roof, often no more than a 90-minute job, generally 10 times or more what a homeowner would be charged by a private contractor. The government provided the plastic sheeting and the FEMA contractors were allowed to charge the government millions of dollars more for administrative fees and additional materials.

A textbook case of big profits?
The 60-plus temporary classrooms came to Waveland and Bay St. Louis schools as part of a controversial no-bid FEMA contract for hundreds of such buildings throughout Mississippi. The federal government paid an Alaskan firm $40 million, or nearly $90,000 per unit, to provide what are essentially commercial-grade double-wide mobile homes in a deal that is now the subject of a lawsuit and government probes.

Critics charge that the Alaskan firm’s political connections are what really won it the contract at the expense of a Mississippi company, Adams Hardware and Home Center, which offered to provide the same buildings for $24 million, or about $53,000 each.

“The amount of dollars that was charged by that Alaska corporation was outrageous,” Adams Hardware owner Kent Adams told MSNBC.com. Adams said his Yazoo City firm is now suing the contract winner for unfair business practices.

The cost of the classrooms doesn’t end with the contract to supply and deliver them. FEMA says site preparation and utility hookups push the price to $117,000 for each trailer.


A North Bay Elementary School student runs among portable classrooms paid for by FEMA.

Housing with a costly hitch
It's not yet possible to say what the final bill will be for FEMA’s travel trailer program. Nearly 30,000 trailers have been placed in Mississippi, about 8,000 of those in Hancock County. While FEMA has said it’s spending about $14,000 per trailer, and many are placed on individual private lots, some news media accounts have detailed cases where the cost to prepare large park sites has approached $40,000 per trailer. And an angry Bay St. Louis Rep. Gene Taylor recently brought to light a single trailer “bone yard” where hundreds of unused trailers were awaiting repairs or being scavenged for spare parts.

Those factors -– and what it will ultimately cost to dismantle the temporary parks, repossess the trailers and dispose of them -– will add significantly to the bottom line for the program.

No carnival for taxpayers
But it’s unlikely to compare with the crown jewel of Katrina spending: a contract with Carnival Cruise Lines to provide housing aboard three cruise ships at a cost of up to $236 million. Figures provided to MSNBC.com on Wednesday peg the current per-person cost for the lodging at $244 a day. At that rate, it would cost more than $175,000 for a family of four to stay on one of the ships for the full six months of the contract, far above the price of the average home in the area.

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This is really unbelievable, but somehow it doesn't surprise me. I understand that in emergency situations things need to be done quickly and there is not time to "bid things out," but this is crazy! This is a golden opportunity for our elected officials (local, state and national). Our govt. officials need to prepare/plan ahead and have disaster plans in order. I mean there should already be some contracts in place to provide emergency housing/schools/tarps etc., after an emergency of this order. It may not be a perfect plan, but the more preparation and the more in place prior to a disaster will speed recovery efforts as well as help keep costs in check.
Please those in charge in D.C. - remember the lesson of Katrina (and Rita and Wilma) and think ahead. GET ON THE BALL! Something of this magnitude may eventually happen again, lets not be caught unprepared.


Ya'll have channel 13. They sure act like Hancock County is the stepchild there. MSNBC has "adopted" sort of, Bay St. Louis and Waveland. Can't we have anything. Have you been to Bay/Waveland? There is hardly anything left here. We are for sure, Ground Zero! The national news for months played nothing but New Orleans and Biloxi. THANKS MSNBC FOR GIVING US A VOICE!!!!!

Hello, We need to know the truth no mater how much hurts our politicains need to go from Washington down to local the mind set is out of touch with all tax payers they keep letting the rich get richer and our backs just raise taxes cut the most important programs they speed thier time of a culture of corruption everyone nothing has changed just getting worst i may seem hard to believe open up your ears and eyes we cannot live with a goverment like this they cannot agree on doing the right decision they have teir on personnel agenda and the tax payers is not not their agenda waste waste they are GREADDY people self centered no integrity none they want to rewrite the constution to benfit their GREED WE the peolpe voted them in NOW it's time to vote them all out clean all the houses out We were once the strong nation now all nations will kill americans burn our flags spit on our soliders and We hace a corruption in all goverment agenices it's sick sad we must turn our nation in the right dirrection to serve the people not just the rich no one ever gets fired what ever they do or do not do the crooines they hire only their friends so nothing ever changes Please American get out and VOTE that is one right they din't take away yet some people thing one crook is just as bad as the one in office now so what vote the bad apples out and if the new ones bad vote him or her out WE NEED to vote and make America the nation it was one time put term limits back they are not meant to be life time jobs that is our problem the corruption just read the paper and tv news we are in very big trouble and we have no protection no one to turn their all on the take and the Alaska oil deal what a jokw they think we our stupid and they can do what ever they want and we cannot do anything about it think again VOTE THEM OUT we need a change $2,000 to put a tarp on the roof with all the local people out of work and some outfit from Alaska comes down they spend crazy and raise our taxes business as usual.And they wanted to impeach Mr Clinton that joke cost hundreds of million and we get nothing higher taxes to pay their royal style lifestyle Please God Bless America.

it's enough to make you sick...almost not proud to be an American...waste SUCKS!!!!! why does this go on and on? ..don't matter whitch party...it seems to be the same ..and that is truley SAD!!!

'Yer doin' a heck of a job Brownie, er, I mean Chertoff'

A $100 tarp, reality. A no bid contract with FEMA, priceless.

Never thought I'd see my insurance company, State Farm, this slow. They finally sent someone to look at
my damage three days ago (almost four months after the
storm). Maybe they only had one adjuster to go around to their clients in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Two and a half weeks ago, someone finally called from their district office wanting to know about my damage, and I told him. I also added that the cost to make repairs may increase, because I was waiting for my roof to leak more and cause my ceiling to collapse. He said they were waiting on an estimate from me, which my wife had carried to them two months previous. Took another two weeks to get someone from them to come look at my house. If I was this late in paying my premiums, my insurance would be cancelled.
Then to top it all off, their estimate was 25% of what mine was. Of course, they did say that if it cost more, then they would pay another $2500, but I first had to let them know about it, get someone to do the work with my paying for the repairs, and then they would reimburse me. I'll be looking for a new insurance company after 20+ years with State Farm.

Holy Crap they have BLUE MONEY down there?

Please, Please, The people in the gulf area was not prepared for this kind of thing and if they are not why should the government be. would you be I don't think so.
We all look at the past there is no way of predicting what the weather is going to do or how bad a hurricane or any other storm is going to be until after the damage is done.
I myself feel the government needs to do what ever they can to help all of the people no matter what it takes or where. Who knows it may be you the next time around.
As to cost the government is spending. Go price RV trailors. 14,000. is not bad at all and FEMA did not have many sitting around before this last Hurricane season.
We all need to do as much as we can instead of sitting around complaining what are government is doing.

To Mary in Jackson County:

The title of this feature is "Rising from Ruin: TWO towns rebuild after Katrina" Two towns...BSL and Waveland...Hancock County...get it?

What are you people complaining for? You voted this pathetic bunch in! Did you really think the republicans cared about you? How could they, when you have one of the biggest crooks in charge! (Chaney)
remember Halliburton?

If the writer of this story was in the bussiness of swaying your opinion...I'd say most bought it hook, line and sinker. Waste spending sucks...making conclusions on half truths and incomplete facts is worse. Of course, we do live in a society where we make voting decisions based on the best TV ads. WE (THE WORKING CLASS) LET THE MEGA WEALTHY RUN OUR GOVERNMENT, OUR LIVES AND OUR MINDS. Before you blog...research. Overpriced classroom for childhood education=good. Not providing proper education to the children of New Orleans for the past fifty years=bad. This region has always been in your pocket America...and there are hundreds more just like it across the country. Most of you just didn't feel it until your SUV fuel cost doubled. Shut up, research, act, repeat.

Welcome to america land of the not so free and home of the waste full. i have never bin to the affected areas of catrina to see if the people there are truly lazy but i do know how goverment contractors like to work they wanna do as little as possible complain the loudest and get paid lots fo money.. why well because there goverment workers. personaly i like it back in the mideaval ages were if the politacol leaders screwed up. he got his head choppped off and some one else put in his place. whish we could do that now i am sure that would get the lazy of there ass and the accountabilty back to were it needs to be. cause the first person to say "not my job " or " i dont know" BANG head chopped off. just my thoughts ~shrug~

The same people now complaining elected the fool! try to discuss the situation and the dyed in the wool Republicans just refuse to see what stares them in the face!

I am not going to sit here and defend FEMA, but the comments I have read on this website are ridiculuous. The "crooks" in the Government. Are you kidding!!

For those of you not here, you don't understand what is happening. It is hard to find housing, workers, supplies, materials (sheet rock and tarps), and the traffic is horrible. The cornerstone of the local economy was New Orleans...population reduced by 80%!!! Home Depot, Lowes, and others could never keep up if the out of state contractors were not bringing the supplies/materials with them. That costs money. Business men and women need to make money doing something or they will do something else.

Everthing is more expensive. I don't think our Government is a bunch of thieves. I think they are overwhelmed. I think it is FEMA's senior leadership that is to blame. They continue to work in their broken system instead of asking for help. They continue to pat themselves on the back for small victories instead of facing the reality: people are living in tents and it is Christmas!

This NO BID administration disgusts me! for 30,000 bucks you can buy a 14x70 foot 2 bed 2 bath mobile home. Rent an acre lot for 150.oo (3,600 for 2 years) a month and put in utilities including septic for 6,000, total? For 42,000 grand. RIP OFF! RIP OFF RIP OFF,
I live in a mobile home that was built in Arkansas with is a whole lot closer than Alaska!
I'll be glad when this NO BID adminstration leaves in 06.

I watch these trailers go by my office everyday on railroad cars and know they are needed in the South. My cubilce neighbor told me that often times natural gas lines are hooked up directly to the trailers, rather than having propane tanks. You would think someone would cost save the trailers via the excess propane tanks when natural gas line are is option.

Yes, get out and vote and vote Democrat. Yes, all politicians are corrupted by the nature of the system. But, when we have all three branches of government run by one corrupt party (and when Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court we will have that), the absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is very important that we have checks and balances to live in a Democracy. We are bordering on Totalitarian rule right now, and the response to Katrina is just the tip of the iceberg. Vote for Democrats so that we again have a shot at living in a Democracy.

With this type of waste in our government spending, think of the good this money could do if applied to the millions of our countrymen who in this modern, hi-tech age are homeless and without any medical insurance and are unable to afford to their prescription drugs. Go figure

If you want something royally screwed up-then just let our illustrious incompetent Washington officials be involved as it relates to the Katrina fiasco! They still really believe it was all a dream and will just wither away.

I wish the media would give continual coverage of these types of stories. It certainly would spark my interest and improve the media's ratings and maybe even result in some accountability.

Wastefull spending, and we wonder why this country is so far into debt.Get rid of FEMA.To many chiefs not enough indians and to many bad decisions.

I understand that the article speaks to the "$600 toilet", but I would like to address the comments about paying $2500 per roof for work that takes no more than 90 minutes...I can only intelligently speak to "Operation Blue Roof" of all of the things mentioned in this article because my brother works for a contractor who has been hired by FEMA to do the work. I don't intend to defend my brother, but to clarify exactly what the $2500 "a pop" is paying for. It includes the sacrifices the laborers are making to do these jobs and the health risk that they have taken, and for that lone, he has earned every penny he has been paid. He voluntarily left his family to help with the blue tarp efforts in September and has only been back twice. He was immunized (twice) against a dozen things we would only expect to see in a third-world-country, yet has spent most of his days freezing cold and pretty sick. The contractor for which he works has paid most of his expenses (including housing in temporary trailers and some food) as there are very few places to stay, and in the beginning, there was no other way to get food unless it was arranged for them.

To complicate the situation, there is a monumentally important thing called "supply and demand", and in the situation of the Blue Tarps, local contractors weren't available to get the jobs done in a lot of cases, so guys were "shipped in" to do the work.

In addition, I think it's important to note that though it might be costing me, as a taxpayer, $2500 each roof, we need to understand that, as a homeowner, Operation Blue Tarp will allow me to actually save money in insurance premiums because the purpose is to mitigate further damage- further damage that my and your insurance company would have otherwise paid for.

Sorry everyone but I disagree with most of you. During the 2004 hurricane season my house was at the crossroads of three: Charlie, Frances and Jeanne. My insurance company let me down. FEMA was there to assist to get repairs done which amounted to over $16,000. They were a blessing and could not thank them enough.

The contractor hired by Nationwide charged $800.00 for a $40.00 tarp. Got a check from insurance that didn't even cover the roof repair.

Why are we suprised people. The government rapes the public with wasteful spending EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!!!
Why are we suprised that contracts go to polictical supporters without bidding? Why are we suprised people??
They say that the government is for the people and by the people....maybe in fantasy land!
what power do we have as citizens other than to take it???
The government breaks laws that THEY CREATE everyday....does anyone pay for it??
get real....

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