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Windsor to Seek $3.1M for Road Damaged by Irene

Windsor — The Selectboard voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $3.1 million to repair portions of Brook Road that were heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

If the costs turn out to be more and the board does not want to incur the additional expense, the town could use the money for other FEMA-approved capital projects or only do a portion of Brook Road.

The board’s vote came after a presentation by Town Manager Tom Marsh and David Eckman, of Eckman Associates, an engineering firm with offices in Sunapee that developed the estimates to repair the road, which remains closed to through traffic nealry 21/2 years after the storm.

Marsh explained in detail FEMA’s rules for developing repair estimates. He said under revised rules implemented this summer, the town submits both the scope of the project and cost estimates to the agency and seeks agreement on both.

Eckman and FEMA are far apart on what each believes is needed to repair the east end of the road. If the town were to proceed based on its engineer recommendations, it would have to incur the cost above FEMA’s estimate, which is based on its approved scope of work.

Eckman said the road must meet standards specified by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and Agency of Natural Resources. For the east end, this would include widening the road from 12 to 18 feet, with shoulders, adding retaining walls on both sides and a guardrail, which FEMA has said is unnecessary.

“There is a big discrepancy in the numbers,” Eckman said. “They left key items out.”

For the east end of Brook Road, FEMA estimates repairs at $360,000 while Eckman’s figure is $1.1 million.

Tom Kennedy with the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission said FEMA wants the road away from the steep bank that rises on one side.

“They want the road more in the river but the Agency of Natural Resources said no, we don’t want you to move the road because the river will take it out again,” Kennedy said.

Overall, FEMA has offered a little more than $2 million to repair the road and replace the bridge while Eckman’s estimate is around $3.5 million. FEMA has come up a little from an original estimate of $1.5 million. The agency pays 90 percent of project costs.

Marsh said FEMA will not cover anything the state ANR is requiring and that would mean significant exposure for the town if it decided to pursue the “scope of work,” approach.

“I could never recommend doing something like that,” he said.

By asking for a value, Marsh said the town has some flexibility going forward on how it plans to use the money and it will know how much it may have to come up with, in addition to the FEMA money, to fix the road before making a commitment.

The town has to submit its estimate of $3.1 million for the work by Friday. Then FEMA has 30 days to review it. The town also has until Feb. 20 to submit a list of alternative capital projects.

When it knows how much money it is getting from FEMA and what other projects have been approved, it can decide whether to use the money on Brook Road.

Resident Dave Taft suggested a non-binding question on the Town Meeting warning asking voters if they want Brook Road repaired. There are no homes affected by the damaged road.

Kennedy said after the meeting Windsor will get at least $2 million and it is possible, with review of Eckman’s drawings, that figure will increase.

“This gives us more options,” he said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com