WATERBURY -- Gov. Peter Shumlin helped construction crews pour one of the first concrete footings Tuesday in what will become the new state office complex, replacing a series of buildings that became unusable after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene almost three years ago.
The governor wrestled a hose from a concrete pump while state and local politicians and dignitaries watched during a ceremony to highlight the project and what will be the eventual return to Waterbury of about 900 state workers displaced by the flood.
Demolition and site work has been underway for months. The $125 million project includes a new 86,000-square-foot office building, a 20,000-square-foot central plant and the renovation of 13 buildings that were on the site before the flood.
The new office building, where Shumlin helped pour the foundation, is being built above the 500-year flood stage so it can escape damage when nearby Winooski River floods again.
"It means that we are going to deliver on our promise of rebuilding after Irene stronger and better than the way she found us," Shumlin said.
When the Winooski River overflowed its banks Aug. 28, 2011, it forced the evacuation of the Vermont State Hospital and its patients, then on the grounds of the complex. More than 1,000 state workers had to find new offices. The only major building still in use since the storm is the Public Safety Building.
The new office building will house the Agency of Human Services, whose employees are now working in temporary quarters elsewhere.
Many of the buildings were originally constructed in the late 19th century to house the predecessor of the Vermont State Hospital. Most of the complex was converted to use by other state agencies about 30 years ago.
The 13 buildings that are being renovated have a total of about 115,000-square feet of office space.
The project is being paid for with state and federal funds and insurance proceeds.
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2015, and the building become home to about 900 employees of the Agency of Human Services.