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Meeting set to discuss proposed hazard mitigation plan

Town, planners seek ideas from residents

Additional reporting by Jeff Potter. Hard copies of the HMP draft are available at the Putney Town Office and the Putney Public Library; a digital copy can be reviewed at putneyvt.org/doc_page.php. Stoddard also says she will email a copy on request; her address is tm@putneyvt.org.

PUTNEY—“Are you ready to weather the next ice storm?"

By asking this hypothetical question — which is all too real for most anyone who has spent a winter in New England — Putney’s town administrators and the Windham Regional Commission invite Putney residents to the next Hazard Mitigation/Resiliency Meeting, set for Tuesday, April 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Putney Fire Department.

At the meeting, organizers will present the current draft of the town’s hazard mitigation plan (HMP) to residents.

The document defines “hazard mitigation” as “any sustained action that reduces or eliminates long-term risk to people and property from natural and human-caused hazards and their effects.”

As the meeting announcement urges, “Your local knowledge is critical to making the plan effective for Putney.”

Alyssa Sabetto, a planner at the Windham Regional Commission, says the upcoming meeting is for more than community feedback; it’s “to bring folks to table,” to “come and bring ideas and projects.”

By engaging more community members, the HMP becomes a better reflection of the true risks potentially facing the town, its residents, its geography, and its structures.

The purpose of the HMP is to help the town identify “all of the hazards facing [it] and to identify strategies to begin reducing risks from identified hazards,” the document states.

The risks are rated by a number of criteria, including probability. For Putney, the likeliest scenarios are flash floods and fluvial flooding, high winds, winter storms, and structure fires.

Other criteria include impact, community vulnerability, and most-vulnerable facilities and populations.

But, Sabetto says, “even tree pests” constitute a potential hazard.

By identifying possible hazards and setting goals for their mitigation, Putney can increase their resiliency.

In the meeting announcement, Putney Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard notes, “It has been recognized that it is less expensive to prevent disasters than to repeatedly repair damage after a disaster has struck.”

Sabetto mentions additional incentives for creating the HMP: it makes Putney eligible for a variety of disaster relief monies, including matching Emergency Relief Assistance Funds (ERAF), insurance, and grants.

The current HMP draft mentions that the process to create and approve the document began in 2010, and was put on hold a few times.

Because, as Sabetto says, the “project takes several months to approve by the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security,” there is no incentive to wait any longer to finalize the HMP.

Stoddard, in her meeting announcement, said that this meeting “is a necessary step in gaining approval from FEMA,” and she encourages attendance, and requests an RSVP from residents planning to attend.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #300 (Wednesday, April 8, 2015). This story appeared on page E1.

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