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Volunteers Clean Up Rivermere

After Flood, Some Residents May Be Returning

  • Nicole Cormen, Lebanon Councilor-at-Large, left, and Dan Billin of Lebanon move a door to a dumpster as they and other volunteers cleared damaged belongings out of a unit at the Rivermere Apartment Complex in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. A hole was kicked into the door to allow floodwaters to flow through the apartment, an attempt to reduce damage to the unit. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Nicole Cormen, Lebanon Councilor-at-Large, left, and Dan Billin of Lebanon move a door to a dumpster as they and other volunteers cleared damaged belongings out of a unit at the Rivermere Apartment Complex in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. A hole was kicked into the door to allow floodwaters to flow through the apartment, an attempt to reduce damage to the unit.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • (Left to right) Rob Bryant, past Executive Director of Twin Pines Housing Trust, Zach Williams of Lebanon, Colton Orr of Lebanon, and Kinley Orr of Lebanon work to remove a carpet from underneath almost a foot of thick mud at Unit 7 in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. A handful of volunteers showed up at the complex Friday morning to prepare units for cleaning and restoration by professionals. More volunteers are needed over the weekend and in the days to come. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    (Left to right) Rob Bryant, past Executive Director of Twin Pines Housing Trust, Zach Williams of Lebanon, Colton Orr of Lebanon, and Kinley Orr of Lebanon work to remove a carpet from underneath almost a foot of thick mud at Unit 7 in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. A handful of volunteers showed up at the complex Friday morning to prepare units for cleaning and restoration by professionals. More volunteers are needed over the weekend and in the days to come.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rob Bryant, former Executive Director of the Twin Pines Housing Trust, throws a large rock while clearing mud and rocks from a doorway in the back of a Rivermere Unit in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Rob Bryant, former Executive Director of the Twin Pines Housing Trust, throws a large rock while clearing mud and rocks from a doorway in the back of a Rivermere Unit in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nicole Cormen, Lebanon Councilor-at-Large, left, and Dan Billin of Lebanon move a door to a dumpster as they and other volunteers cleared damaged belongings out of a unit at the Rivermere Apartment Complex in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. A hole was kicked into the door to allow floodwaters to flow through the apartment, an attempt to reduce damage to the unit. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • (Left to right) Rob Bryant, past Executive Director of Twin Pines Housing Trust, Zach Williams of Lebanon, Colton Orr of Lebanon, and Kinley Orr of Lebanon work to remove a carpet from underneath almost a foot of thick mud at Unit 7 in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. A handful of volunteers showed up at the complex Friday morning to prepare units for cleaning and restoration by professionals. More volunteers are needed over the weekend and in the days to come. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Rob Bryant, former Executive Director of the Twin Pines Housing Trust, throws a large rock while clearing mud and rocks from a doorway in the back of a Rivermere Unit in Lebanon, N.H., on July 5, 2013. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Lebanon — As the sun beat down yesterday, Upper Valley Strong volunteers hauled mud-soaked couches and electronics, baby dolls and stuffed animals from unit seven at the Rivermere affordable housing complex.

The two-story apartment was home to Melodie Marcotte for just two weeks before flash floods earlier this week forced her and her two-year-old daughter, Anna-Bella, out of their new home.

“She had just gotten used to that being mama and Bella’s house,” Marcotte said. during a phone interview this week.

When they evacuated late Monday night, the Marcottes left behind shelves of DVDs, a pantry full of food and a stocked refrigerator. A couple moving boxes sat on the floor, not yet unpacked.

Yesterday, volunteers in knee-high rubber boots and work gloves dug those belongings from beneath several feet of sludge and rock and tossed them in a Dumpster.

Before they began mucking, Marcotte stopped by the complex to salvage what she could — mostly items from the unit’s second floor — which Twin Pines Housing Trust officials put in storage. They did the same for units five and six, which won’t be inhabitable for an extended period, maybe even months, Marcotte said.

“We’re making slow and steady progress in cleaning out the most severely affected units,” Twin Pines Housing Trust Executive Director Andrew Winter said yesterday afternoon. “It wasn’t just the dirt in the units we needed to take care of, but the dirt outside that was blocking doorways.”

Water, sewage and electricity have been restored at Rivermere and throughout Lebanon, although the city has issued a “boil water order” to residents on Meriden Road and Slayton Hill Road, meaning they are only allowed to use it for sanitary purposes. Affected residents have been provided drinking water, according to a news release from the fire department.

Although there’s still no definitive timetable for when the seven most severely damaged units at Rivermere will be repaired, Winter said yesterday they are hopeful, with approval from Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos, that tenants in the unaffected building will be able to move back in as soon as this weekend, though he doesn’t want to give anyone false hope.

Christopoulos said no official determination has been made, but that he will assess the Rivermere complex today at 8 a.m. to determine whether it’s safe for tenants to return.

In the meantime, volunteers will continue to remove mud and debris as quickly as possible so workers from ServPro Franchise Professionals, a fire and water damage restoration service in Lebanon, can use large green dryers and dehumidifiers to dry out the damp units before mold begins to grow.

ServPro had already started stripping some of the less damaged units yesterday, cutting the wet baseboards and drywall two feet up the wall with plans to replace it later. Once all the mud is removed in units five, six and seven, they’ll do the same but cut away the drywall four feet up from the floor.

“We’re just pecking at it the best we can and hope it doesn’t happen again,” ServPro employee Richard MacDonald, of Warren, said as he set up a green fan in one of the units.

That’s what they thought Monday night, after installing dryers in the seven evacuated units, which had only minimal flooding at that time. Then the rain kept coming Tuesday, damaging many of their dryers and dehumidifiers and carrying away the rest.

Herb Campbell, who does sales, marketing and estimating for ServPro, said they are still missing 13 pieces — at least $40,000 worth — of equipment. The flood waters could have swept them away, or they could be buried under mud in the units.

They’ll continue working throughout the weekend, with the help of more Upper Valley Strong volunteers, to dry out the units.

More than 20 volunteers filtered in and out of the Rivermere complex yesterday. Anne Duncan Cooley, Upper Valley Strong chairwoman, said they were expecting more volunteers to help with the recovery efforts throughout the weekend, once Independence Day festivities had passed.

“We’re getting both more help and more to do,” she said as she took a phone call at Storrs Hill Ski Area, where she stood under a Lebanon Farmer’s Market tent greeting volunteers.

On Monday, the contractors who originally built the complex will drive in heavy machinery to haul away the mud and debris from the backyard of the damaged seven units.

The earth broke loose and slid down the side of Slayton Hill Road when a seasonal brook overflowed, busting a culvert and flooding Rivermere. The land where the complex was built is not a flood plain, Winter said, which is why they didn’t purchase flood insurance.

“No one could have foreseen the catastrophic failure of the culvert upstream,” Winter said.

Just last week, Twin Pines organized a ribbon cutting ceremony at Rivermere. In the same week, the housing trust used left over money from the project’s budget to install additional boulders and rip-rap near the seasonal brook, diverting it away from Rivermere and toward its natural path.

But it failed when the culvert on Slayton Hill Road gave way.

“Additional work that we had only completed last week was wiped away in minutes,” Winter said. “Basically, we paid $13,000 to rent some big rocks for a week.”

After an Independence Day downpour, the complex’s detention pond — which was designed to hold rain water and slowly trickle it into the Mascoma River — collapsed Thursday night.

“It had filled up with silt, which had eaten away at one wall,” Winter said. “We knew we were going to have to do work on the detention pond anyway, now we’ll just have to do more.”

The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority — one of the project’s primary supporters — toured Rivermere yesterday.

“It gave them the opportunity to see the damage first hand,” Winter said. “We are working with the agency to figure out how to restore the project as quickly as possible.”

Displaced Rivermere residents are still staying at the Baymont Inn and other local hotels, though Winter is working with Upper Valley Strong and other organizations to find long term housing for those who won’t be returning to the complex any time soon.

“Ideally we’d like to try to relocate those folks to some of the units on site,” Winter said, referring to the four unoccupied Rivermere units that had not yet been leased when the storms hit Monday and Tuesday.

Marcotte, the tenant whose unit seven apartment sustained the most damage, is unsure where she’ll stay in the coming months, or how she’ll afford to replace her lost belongings once she returns home.

“It’s going to be difficult becuase I’m going to be paying to start over,” she said. “I had just started meeting my neighbors. My daughter would go and play on the playground and she was starting to make friends with the other kids.”

She’s been offered a place to stay in Vermont, but isn’t sure she wants to leave New Hampshire, the state she calls home. While she waits for more news, she and her mother have been assessing her salvaged belongings, including her grandmother’s rocking chair.

“I was not going to let that get thrown away,” she said.

On her upturned refrigerator, back in her mudcoated apartment, was a to-do list; buy Miracle Whip, C batteries, sugar, dish drainer and cooking spoons. Now her to-do list includes finding a new home.

“Twin Pines was so helpful with everything, and now I’ve got to start over,” Marcotte said. “I’m just trying to laugh because it’s not worth crying over. There’s nothing I can do to change it.”

Katie Mettler can be reached at kmettler@vnews.com.

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