To start his statewide tour of towns most affected by Tropical Storm Irene on Saturday, Gov. Peter Shumlin chose the site of the former Lower Bartonsville Covered Bridge.
“I came here first, because this is where it started,” he said.
The Bartonsville Covered Bridge was built in 1870 and is the main link to the village of Lower Bartonsville. Record flooding on the Williams River caused by Irene on Aug. 28, 2011, swept the bridge off its abutments and carried it downstream.
A temporary one-lane metal bridge is in its place until the covered bridge is restored and returned to the place is had been for more than 140 years.
Shumlin honored Bellows Falls Fire Chief Bill Weston and Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake for their work during the storm, but both Weston and Lake were quick to credit other town employees, particularly in the Highway Department, for assisting police and fire crews at the height of the flooding.
Both Lake and Weston received “I Am Vermont Strong” license plates signed by Shumlin.
“This is going to go in a prominent place,” said Weston as he displayed the plate proudly. “It’s ironic that I was going to head downtown to get one of the licenses this week.”
Overshadowing Saturday’s appearance by Shumlin is the still unresolved matter of who is going to pay for the cost of restoring the bridge.
Rockingham Selectboard Chair Thom McPhee said that the town has received “a $1 million disappointment” from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT).
The town recently learned that the VLCT insurance policy will cover only $230,000 of the repair costs, leaving the town responsible for $700,000.
“VCLT told us to go to FEMA for the rest,” said McPhee.
Rockingham Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency “reimbursed us for $20,000 of the $470,000 bill for debris cleanup which we paid from our [bridge repair] fund, which now has a zero balance.”
Cullenen said he appreciated that the Shumlin administration has been “pushing FEMA hard” to get all the money that the state is due for repairing storm damage.
“I think we’re headed in a good direction,” said state Rep. Matt Trieber, D-Bellows Falls. “[State Rep.] Carolyn Partridge and I are working really hard in Montpelier to get support [for issues here in Rockingham].”
On Saturday, Shumlin reassured those who are still wading through red tape and federal bureaucracy.
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