Wednesday April 10, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Senior Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A report released by the state on Monday touts steady progress made in recovering from Tropical Storm Irene but makes no mention of the ongoing quest for millions of dollars in federal reimbursements by Bennington and Woodford.

The towns, along with Rockingham, completed work known as emergency protective measures in rivers impacted by the storm. The work was completed to protect the public from further flooding and damage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the towns’ request for reimbursement, claiming the work should be funded by another agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency backed off that position, however, after the state’s congressional delegation intervened.

But the towns are still waiting to learn what, if any reimbursement FEMA will offer. In Bennington, about $4.2 million worth of work was completed. In Woodford, about $500,000 worth of work was done.

According to the report released by the state, Vermont has been awarded more than $50 million in additional Public Assistance grants since last June. That brings the total public assistance to $143 million.

However, officials at the local, state and federal level are still pushing for FEMA to approve. Bennington town officials said the office of Congressman Peter Welch has been helpful, but there is still no indication whether FEMA will reimburse the towns.


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Welch spokesman Scott Coriell said Welch is remains engaged in the discussion, but had nothing new to report.

Ben Rose, the recovery and mitigation section chief in the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said FEMA is still review project worksheets for the work completed by the three towns. Rose said three are from Bennington, two from Woodford and the remaining five from Rockingham.

The project worksheets are under legal review by FEMA, Rose said. He said he expects FEMA to reimburse the towns for at least some of the work.

The report noted progress on many recovery projects, including buyouts for homes impacted by the storm. According to the report, 90 properties have received FEMA approval for the buyout program totaling $17.1 million.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami