Saturday May 18, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Senior Staff Writer

WOODFORD -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to pay $126,000 for work the town completed in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

Select Board Chairman Ryan Thurber received notice Thursday of FEMA's decision to pay $49,000 for the removal of woody debris that collected in the Roaring Branch as a result of the storm. FEMA will also reimburse the town about $77,000 for channel excavation and realigning, sediment removal, floodplain shaping, and bank armoring.

Woodford borrowed $500,000 to complete the emergency work, using a reserve fund as collateral to obtain the line of credit. The town spent as much as $490,000 as part of its clean-up effort from the August 2011 storm, Thurber said.

The town still owes a balance of $230,000 on the line of credit. Thurber said the FEMA reimbursement will be used to pay that down, leaving $105,000 in town expenses. The town will use its reserve fund to avoid additional taxpayer expense, Thurber said.

"This is a slam dunk for us," Thurber said. "In the grand scheme of things we did all right."

Woodford, along with Bennington and Rockingham, were initially denied any reimbursement by FEMA last year. The agency claimed the work should be paid for by another agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. FEMA backed off that position in December after the state's congressional delegation intervened.


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Bennington will receive nearly $1.6 million from FEMA of the $3.9 million it spent. The town is appealing the decision, hoping to receive more funding, though.

Woodford will not appeal and seek additional funds, Thurber said.

"I'm done. It's been 20 months of fighting and literally crying and screaming and making a lot of noise. It is possible to appeal this, but I'm done. I'm exhausted," he said. "It's still a big chunk of change, but fortunately, we have that reserve fund that we can fall back on."

Thurber said the reserve fund was created in the 1970s with $250,000. It now has a balance of more than $500,000.

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