FEMA budges on Irene, town still seeks appeal
BENNINGTON -- While the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to cover another $800,000 or so for Tropical Storm Irene repairs, the town still plans to appeal a decision that would leave taxpayers on the hook for about $1.3 million.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said a letter came to the town earlier in the week from FEMA saying it would cover the cost of sediment removal that was done in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, but some excavation, bank armoring, and floodplain shaping is not covered under the reimbursement program.
The town has spent close to $4 million in response to Irene. Hurd said most of that has been recouped through other sources such as insurance. The town was able to borrow what it needed without voter approval because of the emergency nature of the spending.
FEMA agreed that some of the expenses were eligible, but the town has appealed those decisions.
Hurd said the town has 60 days from the time it received the latest letter to file an appeal, which will require Select Board approval. The board meets Monday starting at 5:45 p.m. at the Bennington Fire Facility at 130 River Street. Hurd will ask for the board's approval to file an appeal, and he expects the board will agree as it has in the past.
Should FEMA agree that the remaining $1.3 million is eligible, the town will still have to pay five percent, or about $350,000. This expense will be budgeted for and spread out, likely over five years. Whatever happens, the board has 10 years from the events of Irene to pay off the money before it has to ask voters for a bond, which would come with an interest rate.
Hurd said that engineers and the state both agree with the town that the work done does fall under FEMA's criteria for reimbursement, and the agency has not provided any rationale behind its decisions. He suspects the town's evidence has not been looked at by regional FEMA officials, but the hope is that it will during this final appeal.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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