Friday May 11, 2012

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has asked the president to boost the federal reimbursement rate from 75 to 90 percent for Tropical Storm Irene recovery and repairs to state and local roads, bridges and buildings.

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on May 3, the Democratic governor said Irene-related costs have reached $82.6 million, an amount that would trigger a higher reimbursement from FEMA, Shumlin said.

If approved, the increase would mean an estimated $30 million more for Vermont, said Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding on Thursday. So far the state has received about $50 million in public assistance from FEMA, he said.

The impact of the Aug. 28 storm, which claimed the lives of six Vermonters, damaged more than 3,500 homes and 500 miles of roads and more than 200 bridges, has put many Vermont communities under severe fiscal crisis, Shumlin wrote.

Eleven town office buildings, five libraries, seven fire stations and numerous wastewater and drinking water systems were damaged, Vermont’s congressional delegation wrote to Obama, backing up Shumlin’s request. Ninety public schools could not open at the beginning of the school year.

The biggest damage was to local roads and bridges of which more than 2,200 were washed away by flood waters, isolating thirteen towns. Dozens of local roads and bridges are still closed, the delegation said.

"To pay for repairs and replacement, nearly 50 small Vermont communities have had to obtain loans and lines of credit, some for more than $1 million -- a very significant amount considering these are small rural towns, sometimes with just a few hundred residents. These towns will be paying off Irene-related debt for many years to come," the governor said in his request, which was first reported by the Brattleboro Reformer.

Shumlin also has asked Obama to boost the FEMA cost share for three other major disasters within a five-month period in 2011: a windstorm that created 80,000 power outages, spring flooding in and around Lake Champlain and flash flooding in other parts of the state, and a series of snowstorms in February that forced 41 dairy farms to dump their milk.