FEMA to reimburse Bennington $1.2 million for Irene recovery


BENNINGTON -- The federal government has made it official that it plans to only give the town $1.2 million to cover some Tropical Storm Irene repairs. As this amount is less than what the town spent on recovery efforts, local officials now have the opportunity to appeal the decision and ask for closer to $3.4 million.

"It's not a surprise," said Assistant Town Manager Dan Monks, who said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had said as much months ago when it made a preliminary decision on how much money it would obligate to the town for work done to the Roaring Branch to clear sediment and armor the river's banks.

FEMA and Vermont Emergency Management announced the decision Thursday. According to the release, the $1.3 million is the eligible portion of the $3.9 million spent on river work by the town.

Monks said FEMA will cover 90 percent of what it deems the town eligible to receive. He said in any case, the town can use the $1.2 million to pay down what it owes on a line of credit it took out from People's United Bank.

The town has 60 days to file an appeal and has been preparing to do so, said Monks. He said the town is arguing it is eligible for more, and FEMA has miscalculated the costs associated with the work that was done.

He said FEMA distributes money to the state, which in turn doles it out to towns. Monks said town officials will work with Vermont Emergency Management on the appeal.

The shutdown of the federal government, which began Monday after Congress did not pass a funding bill, will not affect the crafting of the appeal, said Monks.

How long it will be before a final decision is made, he does not know. He said several months ago the town appealed FEMA's decision not to reimburse any of the $216,000 the town spent on shoring up the retaining wall by Mount Anthony Union High School. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was involved on that project and the question of who is responsible for paying has been in dispute, Monks said. It was not until recently that FEMA received that appeal and began reviewing it.

He said of the 12 "project worksheets" the town filed with FEMA in connection with the storm, which hit in August 2011, the retaining wall is the only one that has been officially appealed. The Select Board will have to approve the town appealing the larger worksheet.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com; follow him on Twitter @kwhitcombjr


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