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Bennington Denied FEMA Funding for Irene Cleanup Project

Hurricane Irene Approaches the Outer Banks
Courtesy NOAA
Hurricane Irene Approaches the Outer Banks

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has rejected a request from Bennington, Vermont for reimbursement to cover the costs of repairs to damages associated with last year’s Tropical Storm Irene. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard has more…

After Tropical Storm Irene swept through the region last causing millions of dollars in damage to Southern Vermont, the Town of Bennington determined that in order to prevent larger losses in future flooding events, work had to be done on the Roaring Branch river. Bennington Town Manager Stu Hurd says that engineers were tasked with removing organic and stone debris from the creekbed, and armoring the banks…

At the time the work began, town officials were confident that the state-approved almost $4 million project would be covered by funding by the Federal Emergency Management Agency…

But things have not turned out so smoothly. After submitting the project worksheets to FEMA, Bennington did not receive an initial response. The waiting game continued as the town worked on the project.

If the federal funding does not go through, Bennington taxpayers could pick up the bill and pay off a $5 million bond to People’s United Bank. According to Stu Hurd, the repayment process could raise property taxes by two percent for all residents for 20 years.

Now local and state officials trying to figure out what happened.

Bennington County Senator Dick Sears says that the State doesn’t have enough money to cover the bill. Funds are tight due to the extensive damages dealt by Irene across the state.  

FEMA is also denying reimbursements for work done at the Vermont State Hospital and Vermont State Office complex in Waterbury. Senator Sears acknowledges the tremendous amount of support FEMA has given Vermont, but…

Stu Hurd says that FEMA recognizes that Bennington’s  river mitigation project falls under a different organization, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, under the US Department of Agriculture…

Senator Sears adds that…

Sue Minter, Head of the State’s Irene Recovery Office, could not return a call to WAMC in time for broadcast, but told the Bennington Banner that the state will continue fighting for the reimbursement funding.