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WASHINGTON – The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to meet with Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and local members of Congress to discuss the recent inspector general’s audit saying the agency should force the county to pay back $48.5 million in federal aid it received after the surprise snowstorm of October 2006.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that he will host the meeting in his office in the coming weeks. FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate agreed to the meeting.

“I want the opportunity to sit down with FEMA Administrator Fugate and Erie County officials to get to the bottom of this,” Schumer said. “After the storm, Erie County officials worked in good faith with FEMA to respond to the crisis, and we cannot change the rules halfway through the game.”

FEMA has 90 days from the report’s January release in which to decide whether to seek repayment, and the meeting will take place before the end of that period. FEMA officials have not yet commented on the audit, in which the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security concluded that Erie County did not comply with federal bidding rules for most of the cleanup work by favoring local contractors no matter the cost.

Poloncarz and members of the Western New York congressional delegation have lashed out at the audit, saying the county worked with FEMA during the disaster and didn’t discover any problems at the time.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com