Some expenses may not be recouped here|[10/12/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2005

When Vicksburg submits its paperwork to FEMA for reimbursement of Hurricane Katrina-related costs, more than $190,000 in lost income and expenses at Vicksburg Convention Center will be included – but may not be paid.

&#8221We already know they probably won’t cover lost revenue,“ said Larry Gawronski, executive director of the privately managed convention center and Vicksburg Auditorium. &#8221But as the city gathers its other numbers, we’ll just put it all in and see.“

Vicksburg and Warren County have been in the process of tallying totals they expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency, using a congressional appropriation, to provide. Under local, state and national declarations of Warren among disaster-stricken counties, extra expenses local governments paid are to be reimbursed.

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A tally is expected in two weeks. At the convention center, operated as a shelter for about three weeks in September, missing kitchen equipment and damage to facilities like restrooms and elevators are on the list of costs incurred.

Items like sheet pans, serving spoons, bowls and cups totaling $834.30 were reported missing upon inventory counts completed five days after the center ceased shelter operations on Sept. 23.

Repair bills to restrooms, doors and to the building’s escalators and elevators, said to stem from children’s modeling clay being stuck into it, account for nearly $27,000 of the total.

Fees paid to professional cleaning services, salaries to convention center attendants and utility charges make up much of the rest, bringing the total to $191,873.37.

Officials with the city have met daily with a coordinator from the federal agency, while department heads with the county are keeping their own totals for submission.

The deadline is Oct. 30, or 60 days after the storm.

Twenty-three events originally scheduled for the convention center between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15 were lost, with one, Mississippi Celebrates the Birthplace of Music, rescheduled for August 2006 and another, the Festival of Trees, scaled back to just one day.

Six others scheduled for the auditorium were also canceled, with just one, Ballet Magnificat!, rescheduled for February.

While each event promised to bring varying numbers of participants, the real economic impact was felt in the number of days conventioneers planned to stay in town, Gawronski said.

&#8221Meetings like the Louisiana Monument Builders Association had 125 people for four days. Others like the USDA (Department of Agriculture) was to be a five-day conference. That’s a lot of hotel taxes lost,“ he said.

The two public meeting facilities here are managed by Compass Facility Management, Inc. of Ames, Iowa.

Despite the lost revenue, Gawronski acknowledges opening the convention center as a shelter was &#8221the right thing to do, considering the enormity of the situation.“

To that end, his fellow convention center directors have worked a five-hour symposium into the upcoming International Convention Center Conference in California.

&#8221It’s just there was no model or precedent for this before, from the organization of it to the replacement of income,“ Gawronski said.