Towns receiving disaster aid for April storm and floods

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DORSET — An early spring storm brought $100,000 worth of damage to the Town of Dorset, the costliest storm the municipality has seen in at least a decade.

Certain areas of Dorset got up to 3 inches of rain in just two hours on April 15, causing heavy floods from both rainwater and snowmelt, said town manager Rob Gaiotti. East Dorset Village was hit particularly hard, with floods washing out parts of Mad Tom Road and Upper and Lower Squirrel Hollow roads.

The town to date has spent $60,000 from its general operating budget to fix the dirt roads, so it welcomed the recent news that it qualified for federal disaster aid.

President Donald Trump formally declared June 14 that six Vermont counties, including Bennington and Windsor, suffered a major disaster in the April 15 storm and flooding.

A preliminary assessment by the Federal Emergency Management Agency identified more than $2 million in eligible public infrastructure damage statewide, more than double the minimum for a disaster declaration.

"The areas of greatest impact included many small towns with limited transportation budgets," Governor Phil Scott said in a statement Monday. "This will help them rebuild roads and other infrastructure without experiencing a long-term financial strain on their town budget."

The declaration enables municipalities and qualifying non-profits, such as public utilities, to receive 75 percent federal reimbursement for storm response and recovery, according to a release from the Governor's Office. The eligible expenses include debris removal and repairs to public roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

"We're lucky that it was a FEMA emergency and that we'll be able to get reimbursed for the event," Gaiotti said. "If it wasn't, it would be very difficult."

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He described the federal aid as "a huge deal," because Dorset only had a few thousand dollars set aside for contingency expenses.

Having to shoulder at least $100,000 for the unforeseen storm damage would have required the town to cut from other expenses in its general fund, Gaiotti said. Now, with additional financial assistance expected from the state, Dorset would end up footing only about $7,500 of the total bill.

Future work on the damaged roads would involve fixing their drainage and getting them ready for the winter, at a sum of around $40,000.

Gaiotti said the storm was the costliest he has seen in Dorset in at least 10 years — worse than the town's $15,000 toll from the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene, which caused statewide damage estimated at $700 million and is one of the worst disasters in Vermont history.

Weston didn't rack up as big a bill in the April 15 storm, but the town is also planning to apply for the federal disaster reimbursement.

The municipality is spending about $3,200 to clean the mold and water damage in the town hall basement caused by flooding, as well as to repair the local fire department's air compressor and boiler, said Select Board Administrative Assistant Cheryl Barker.

"We did have 2 feet of water in the road," Barker said, adding that the last time this happened was during Tropical Storm Irene.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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