BENNINGTON - The federal government has informed the town and state that it will pay just $1.55 million of the $3.9 million the town spent on emergency work in the Roaring Branch in the immediate aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
Bennington Planning Director Daniel Monks said the town received word Thursday evening of the preliminary decision rendered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town has been waiting about 21 months for a decision on reimbursement.
The town can accept the decision or appeal. An appeal is the most likely course of action, Monks said. "We think the science is behind us," he said.
The town submitted extensive information about the work it completed after the storm. Monks said removing debris and fortifying the banks was determined to be necessary to protect the public and was recommended by a river scientist.
"We didn't just do this willy nilly," Monks said. "We weren't cowboys in the river."
FEMA fully funded removal of woody debris, much of which had collected against bridges. However, the agency did not fund most of the work the town did to remove sediment from the river, or work done to fortify the river bank with rock.
The town should have a strong appeal because FEMA provided no reasoning for the rejection of funds, Monks said.
"The reason why I'm confident is because I don't see any scientific basis articulated why they have denied the majority of the funding for that particular endeavor," he said.
FEMA has yet to complete an "environmental and historic preservation review," so the decisions remains preliminary, Monks said. The amount the town receives from FEMA could still go up or down based on the review, he said.
A full story will appear in Saturday's edition of the Banner.