ABC11 Investigates: Flood Money

May 21, 2008 3:18:58 PM PDT
It's been more than eight and a half years since Hurricane Floyd devastated eastern North Carolina. Princeville, a town that spent ten days underwater, got millions in state and federal relief. But many residents are now wondering where all that money went.

In September 1999, as Hurricane Floyd rocked eastern North Carolina, a flood of brown water reached as high as the traffic lights. The water flowed over the banks of the Tar River, all but washing away the Edgecombe County town of Princeville. Princeville is a town established by freed slaves after the Civil War.

"It was devastating, it was horrible," says Maxine Lyons. She's lived in Princeville all her life and lost everything in the flood.

"It was horrible, and even n

ow, it's still terrible," says Lyons. "We're still going through the after affects and the things that went on in Princeville back during the flood, it still bothers me right as of now, because we didn't get anywhere," she continued.

"We didn't get no money, we didn't get no money, we didn't get no grant or nothing," says Cleveland Purvis. He says he didn't get a dime from FEMA so he had to take out a new loan to rebuild.

"I got so many more of my friends in the same, riding in the same boat that I'm in.," says Purvis.

Riding through town today, nearly nine years later, you can still see Floyd's impact. From flooded out and forgotten house to and old abandoned grocery store overgrown with weeds, the signs of the flood are everywhere.

The state says Princeville got at least thirteen point three million state and federal dollars to help rebuild. Town leaders say it might be double that number.

"Over $26 million came into Princeville," says Priscilla Everette-Oates. She continues, "It didn't get into the appropriate people's hands or the appropriate places that it's supposed to go."

Priscilla Everette-Oates was mayor from 2003 to 2006. She says when she took office she hired an auditor because she couldn't figure out what happened to all that money.

"I still wonder where certain money went to," says Everette-Oates. She continued, "It was disgusting hearing some of the things that the auditor found."

Town leaders at the time disagreed with the audit so much they discounted it.

According to the audit, in 2002, the town agreed to pay $330,000 to turn a trailer park into a town park. The auditor valued the land at just $34,000. That's ten times less than the town paid.

"I just know, if the value is $30,000, that's what should have been paid, $30,000," says Everette-Oates.

Current Princeville mayor Delia Perkins disagrees. "We all are taxpayers and we're all getting a part of the pie," she says.

Perkins was also mayor when Floyd hit and for three years after the flood. She says the money was well spent on the park because they were trying to compensate the land owner for lost revenue.

"I don't understand why we're always getting all of these little bites about things that were spent in the town of Princeville," Mayor Perkins says. She continues, "If you look around North Carolina there are lots of things that money, excess money has been spent on, but it goes unnoticed. Nobody says anything about it."

Priscilla Everette-Oates says, "Anything can happen when an abundance of money comes and there's no one watching it."

She says the overpriced park is just one example of a much bigger problem.

"If $26 million of work that means that every house should have been built back free, the sewage and water drainage should be running well. It should be so beautified, and such strong, we should be such a strong city," says Everette Oates. She continues, "It's a disgrace and something needs to be done about it."

A source for our story who's familiar with Princeville's finances thinks nothing's been done because it would make elected leaders who have oversight look bad and would interfere with their political ambitions.

The State Bureau of Investigation says they've looked into the way the money was spent in Princeville and indicted the town manager based on misspent town money. So far, they have not reached any conclusions on the spending of FEMA or state money.

If you have information about the way state and federal money was spent in Princeville send the ABC 11 Investigative email at investigates@abc11mail.com.


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