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Local Contractor Remains Unpaid For Katrina Relief Services, He Says

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GRANVILLE COUNTY, N.C. — A Granville County contractor hired to clean up debris in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina claims he has not yet been paid for the services he and his company provided.

Last fall, Randy Abbott took a crew of employees and some trucks from his company to Slidell, La., where for more than a month, they helped clean up debris left by the hurricane.

He said he is now out of $268,000 because the company he worked under while there, Slidell-based Omni Pinnacle, has not paid him.

"It hurt, it hurt a lot," Abbott said. "I've had to sell a few pieces of equipment to pay my people."

Omni, however, tells Abbott that it never received money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which pays the parish (similar to a county in North Carolina), which then pays the contractor.

In Abbott's case, FEMA was to pay St. Tammany's Parish, which would then pay Omni.

FEMA said it has paid the parish more than $133 million for debris removal. The parish said it has also paid.

Omni did not return WRAL's calls.

Abbott says he can't get any straight answers.

"Pretty much, it appears that the government officials don't care," Abbott said.

Abbott, who has now hired an attorney to try to get his money back, says Slidell, which terms itself "The Forgotten City," is in such dire straits because a lot of contractors aren't getting paid for the work they're doing. He has talked to dozens of small business owners in the same situation and believes there may be hundreds.

"Slidell has not been forgotten, people have pulled out," Abbott said

With hurricane season just four months away, Abbott said he would think twice about ever doing this kind of work again.

"People in Slidell need help -- the whole Gulf Coast," he said. "I can't go down there and take all of this equipment knowing that I'm losing money."


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