NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Senior Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- The town has filed an appeal over the federal government's rejection of reimbursement funds for work the town completed on a flood wall after Tropical Storm Irene.
The August 2011 storm caused serious damage to a levee between North Branch and Park Streets that was designed and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The town, fearing that a failure to act could result in flooding, completed repair work on its own that cost $214,000.
It is expected to take at least several months for the appeal, filed through the state, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency makes a ruling.
Bennington Planning Director Daniel Monks said flood waters in the Roaring Branch during and after the storm caused significant erosion to the earthen levee. The work had to be completed quickly because the river had washed away rip rap and was beginning to wash the earthen wall out, Monks said.
"That was probably one of the most dangerous things. So we have filed an appeal for that," Monks said.
FEMA has rejected the town's request for reimbursement on the grounds that the work was the responsibility of the corps. However, Monks said the corps could not act quickly enough to eliminate the dangerous condition of the levee.
"The facts are: The Corps of Engineers was unable to respond in a timely enough fashion to address it. We had them down here like two or three days after the storm to look at it and then they had people down a couple months later again. They have to go through this whole bureaucratic process before they put together this report before they can actually do any work," Monk said.
The corps "couldn't respond and wouldn't respond," Monk said, so the town had the repair plans approved by the corps and completed the work. But the corps will not pay for the work.
"They won't reimburse for work done by the town. It has to be work that they do," Monk said. "It's kind of an interesting situation where they said, ‘Yeah, it has to be fixed immediately,' but they couldn't fix it immediately."
The town will be filing at least one more appeal with FEMA. The town also completed work to remove debris and sediment from the Roaring Branch. FEMA has reimbursed the town for removing the debris.
However, the town is likely to appeal the amount of money it received for sediment removal as well as FEMA's decision determining that work to restore rip rap to the river bank is not eligible for funding.
"We're still dealing with the sediment amount and armor issue," Monks said. "They just threw a number at it and didn't look at the actual numbers. We have evidence about what we spent."
Both the state and the congressional delegation are supporting the appeal, according to Monks. Still, an answer is expected to take plenty of time.
"It could be months before we hear from them. But, we've done everything we can at this point to get funding for that particular part," he said.
Contact Neal P. Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami