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Millions in ice allowed to melt in warehouse after Hurricane Isa - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Millions in ice allowed to melt in warehouse after Hurricane Isaac

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Pelican Ice warehouse. Photo courtesy of LA Office of State Inspector General. Pelican Ice warehouse. Photo courtesy of LA Office of State Inspector General.
Pelican Ice warehouse. Photo courtesy of LA Office of State Inspector General. Pelican Ice warehouse. Photo courtesy of LA Office of State Inspector General.
Pelican Ice warehouse. Photo courtesy of LA Office of State Inspector General. Pelican Ice warehouse. Photo courtesy of LA Office of State Inspector General.
KENNER, La. -

Millions in taxpayer dollars was essentially allowed to 'melt away' in a south Louisiana warehouse in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

That's according to a new report released August 1st by the Louisiana Inspector General's office.

As Hurricane Isaac made landfall last August, affected parishes began making requests for certain commodities.

One of those commodities was ice, and according to the OIG report - lots of it.

"We have been through enough trauma and natural disasters and man-made disasters for a lifetime," says Jill Craft, attorney for former state worker, Bruce Ellis, who is currently suing the state.

Ellis claims he lost his job after exposing the ice program's flaws.

The report states that the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) purchased 33,924,000 pounds of bagged ice from Kenner, LA company, Pelican Ice.

Of that, the reports says only about 6,248,000 pounds made it to storm victims.

The rest of it was allowed to melt in a Pelican Ice warehouse in Lacombe, LA.

In fact, due to an insufficient inventory tracking system, the Inspector General says the state was unable to figure out at any given moment how much ice was purchased, and how much had already been handed out.

Craft says the state should own up to its mistake, not point the finger of blame.

"Frankly, as a citizen and a taxpayer, it's outrageous to me that we spend so much money on unnecessary commodities and you almost get the impression, well it's not my money. Why should I worry about it?"

Ellis's co-worker shot cell video of the millions of pounds of bagged ice inside the Lacombe warehouse.

Ellis was a commodities specialist and says he tried to warn the state their ordering was excessive.

In total, the state was charged $17,407,633 for the ice. According to the report, this was the second major ice purchase by GOHSEP, which replaced FEMA as the state's main cold customer.

The report also says that as the threat of Isaac diminished, 71 truckloads of the ice was donated to private businesses and restaurants.

Craft says a warehouse full of melted ice has much larger implications for future aid during natual disasters.

"Taxpayers in the state are smart enough to realize that waste on one issue is going to eventually translate into, 'we're just not coming and the sky is falling and we're not your pleas this time.'"

A spokesperson for GOHSEP couldn't comment on pending litigation, but says the state doesn't dispute any findings in the report and that they're working to ensure this type of situation never happens again.

The report also includes recommendations for both GOHSEP - and the Louisiana National Guard - which plays a role in determining how much ice should be ordered.

Those two agencies responded with their own corrective actions, including an updated inventory system to track all commodities.

The state also created contracts with three new vendors that include a provision for returning any un-used ice to the vendor that has not been used in refrigerated trucks.

To read the full report, click here.

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