Some Rivermere Residents Go Home
Seven of the 21 Units Are Still Uninhabitable
John Roe, Twin Pines Housing Trust Project Manager, left, claps his hand over his eyes while assessing the day's work to be done to clean up flood damage at Rivermere with the trust's executive director Andrew Winter, right, in Lebanon Saturday, July 6, 2013. While residents were cleared to return to some units of the complex over the weekend, those on the southwest side of the site still needed mud and wet building materials removed so the apartments could dry out and be restored. Purchase photo reprints »
Laura Beliveau, left, John Roe, middle, and Andrew Winter, right, of the Twin Pines Housing Trust met early Saturday, July 6, 2013 to make plans for the day's flood cleanup at Rivermere in Lebanon. On the day some residents were permitted to return to their homes, about a third of the housing complex still needed flood debris removed from against the building and remediation work done inside apartments. Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — When Twin Pines Housing Trust officials told their Rivermere tenants they could come home yesterday, one mother cried.
Her kids thought they had done something wrong.
But she was just happy to be coming home.
Hers was just one of 14 units that was cleared for occupancy yesterday morning by Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos.
“It was a beautiful thing this morning when we got to tell our tenants they could come home,” Twin Pines Executive Director Andrew Winter said.
But seven of the 21 Rivermere affordable housing complex units are still uninhabitable, Christopoulos said, and will be inspected on a case by case basis in the coming weeks.
Four units had not yet been leased when flash floods devastated part of the complex, Winter said. He and other Twin Pines officials are completing the proper paperwork that would allow tenants from the most damaged units to move their belongings across the parking lot and into the empty apartments, at least until their original homes are safe and dry.
At least two apartments — units six and seven — could be under construction for about 30 days, Winter said, he’s hopeful the remaining five families will be moved back into their homes within the next week or two.
“We told our tenants that if things slip by a day or two, don’t worry, we’ve got your back,” Winter said yesterday, as he walked past volunteers on the site, assessing their progress thus far.
Upper Valley Strong, a long-term committee that formed two years ago during Tropical Storm Irene recovery efforts, had gathered volunteers from as far away as Rochester, N.H., and as close as down the road.
Friday, Upper Valley Strong volunteers wearing donated knee-high rubber boots dug their way through mud and debris in units six and seven. The sludge was waist-high in some places.
By yesterday afternoon, the white floors of all seven damaged units were visible.
At the end of the work day, green ServPro dryers and dehumidifiers had been placed in every water-soaked room to draw moisture from the floor and walls.
“We’re trying to keep ordered chaos,” said John Roe, who was appointed by the organization after the storms last week to help manage the complex’s recovery.
Hailing from Keene, N.H.,volunteers Greg Messer and Bob Bowen drove their trailer into the Rivermere parking lot early yesterday morning, clad in flourescent yellow T-shirts that read D.R.R.T. It’s an acronym for their faith-based organization, Disaster Readiness and Relief Team, that sounds like the word dirt and appropriately describes their efforts yesterday.
“I want to work on getting guys out of the four walls of the church,” Messer said. “What better way than to tell them they’ll get to play in dirt.”
The duo works to train volunteers in disaster relief and aims to get church-goers out in the community, giving back. A family in Hanover offered them a place to stay for the night, and the men will continue to help at Rivermere and throughout the Upper Valley the rest of the weekend.
Kristen Coats, of Lebanon, volunteered at Rivermere yesterday because she wanted to help her community members. “If they get hurt, we feel hurt too,” she said.
Coats volunteered two years when Tropical Storm Irene wrecked the Upper Valley. She said when she arrived yesterday, she already knew what to do and how to do it.
“Coming today, I didn’t wonder,” she said, admitting that she wasn’t sure whether to be sad or grateful that volunteers where all too familiar with this type of flood devastation. “I think it’s neat to see the way Vermont and New Hampshire take care of each other.”
Granite United Way donated lunch and Lake Sunapee United Methodist Ministry donated buckets full of cleaning supplies.
Around 2 p.m., Rivermere residents began returning home.
Brian Alexander and Amy Blanchette stood on their front stoop yesterday, counting their blessings and gushing about the overwhelming support Twin Pines provided them last week.
“It just goes to show that when something devastating happens, complete strangers will band together to help each other out,” Alexander said, offering particular praise to Jennie Gibson, property manager of the Rivermere. “The moment everything happened she was there. On behalf of everyone here, thank you.”
When the couple left the Baymont Inn yesterday morning with their year-and-a-half old daughter Ava, they tried to do so quietly.
“It’s such a joyful feeling, but it’s heartwrenching to see all these people displaced,” Blanchette said. “We can come home today, but other people aren’t going to be able to come home for weeks.”
Standing on the now inside unit seven, a three-foot wall of mud and parts of Slayton Hill Road can be seen outside from the glass back door. Tomorrow, the complex’s original contractors will use heavy machinery to haul it all away. It’s a crucial step toward getting tenants back in their units, since state law requires apartments to have two means of egress.
Next door, inside unit six, volunteers tore out the baseboards and drywall.
On the entryway above their heads a sticker read, “faith, hope, love.”
Katie Mettler can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3234.