FEMA Gives $53M to Build Vt. Offices

Funding Will Help Restore Center Damaged by Irene

Waterbury, Vt. — The federal government will provide $53 million to help rebuild the Vermont state office complex in Waterbury that was flooded during Tropical Storm Irene, state and federal officials said Thursday, a day after the second anniversary of the storm.

The money will go toward a $125 million plan to tear down some of the buildings in the complex, restore others and construct a new one that will house about 900 employees of the Agency of Human Services.

The plan is itself part of a list of Irene reconstruction projects expected to cost $225 million, including relocations for displaced workers and the cost of building a new state hospital, officials said.

In addition to the $53 million that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide for Waterbury project, the state is also eligible to receive another $36 million from the agency and the state’s insurance company to pay costs of relocating state offices and preliminary cleanup work.

That means that lawmakers are only about $10 million short of the total for all the reconstruction projects, Gov. Peter Shumlin said.

Much of the Waterbury state office complex, including the Vermont State Hospital, was abandoned after Irene forced the nearby Winooski River over its banks on Aug. 28, 2011. After the water receded, about 1,200 state employees had to find new places to work and the state had to figure out what to do with the buildings.

The building that houses the Department of Public Safety survived. A new state hospital is under construction in the town of Berlin. The other state employees were farmed out in temporary offices across the state.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the Waterbury funding came about through legislation passed after the massive Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast just over a year after Irene, which allows FEMA to help fund projects that will make improvements rather than just restore structures or other infrastructure to pre-disaster conditions.

The reconstruction is the largest capital project in Vermont history and the largest single Irene recovery project, officials said Thursday.