Day4FloodingAerials bf 1317.jpg

Aerials of severe weather flooding in East Baton Rouge Parish on Monday August 15, 2016. A National Guard vehicle turns west on Prescott Avenue off of N. Foster Drive. Looking south southeast.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

A company seeking a lucrative contract to run housing recovery programs following last years catastrophic floods is taking legal action to try to stop the state from scrapping its initial solicitation of bids.

IEM had submitted a $250 million proposal to oversee the $1.6 billion in federally-funded programs that the state hopes to launch next month to help people rebuild their flood-damaged homes. The company was selected over several other firms, including HGI Global, Rebuild Louisiana Now, PDRM and CB&I. Many of the proposals had looped in representation from local contractors. A mandatory pre-proposal meeting in January drew more than 90 individuals from dozens of firms. 

On Friday, the state announced that it would re-start the process of soliciting bids following objections from firms that challenged IEM's licensing, based on a state contractor licensing board opinion. The redo of the process was expected to open on Wednesday.

IEM filed paperwork in Louisiana's 19th Judicial Circuit on Tuesday challenging the licensing board's analysis of the state bid process.

Pat Forbes, head of the state Office of Community Development, said during a task force meeting last week that the state had hoped to avoid litigation by restarting the process.

The governor's office declined to comment after the firm filed its challenge late Tuesday, but the solicitation of proposals was expected to move ahead as scheduled.

Madhu Beriwal, CEO of IEM, said that the firm believes it won the process fairly.

"Our proposal complied with all of the state's requests for proposals," she said Tuesday night. "We need to clear our name in this process."

Beriwal said she founded the company in Baton Rouge in 1985 and has strong ties to the community.

"I call them the Cajun Navy for recovery," she said. "We are ready to go."

The state has not yet received a line of credit from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration says is needed before the programs can begin making progress toward rebuilding people's homes. 

A website is expected to be launched in the coming weeks to begin collecting initial information from flood-affected residents.

Edwards, a Democrat, said last week that restarting the bid selection "shouldn't" create a delay. It's unclear what impact the latest legal maneuvering may have.

Congress approved the federal disaster relief dollars over two separate appropriations last fall after historic floods swept south Louisiana in August and north Louisiana last spring. Edwards is seeking $2 billion more to further address the state's needs.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.