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Knocking their socks off

Housing Authority, FEMA, and HUD announce assistance funds

BRATTLEBORO—Local and federal representatives met Sept. 20 to discuss the Brattleboro Housing Authority’s current housing plans and offer support for the BHA’s future.

Meeting attendees included representatives from Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA); representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch; town officials; BHA staff; the Windham-Windsor Housing Trust; and engineering firm Stevens & Associates.

According to Adam Hubbard, Project Manager for Stevens & Associates and the BHA’s redevelopment project, those at the table painted a picture of scarce financial resources.

But, said Hubbard, everyone at the table said, “we hear you” and the meeting had an “undercurrent of excitement.”

Hubbard added that he has seen a transformation in FEMA representatives. FEMA, he said, has its own “bureaucratic solutions” when it arrives at a disaster area. But representatives have appeared “dumbfounded” by the level of cooperation between the BHA and other local and state agencies.

“Vermont has knocked their socks off,” said Hubbard.

Hubbard said that the BHA’s work has created advocates at the state and federal level that gives him hope for the housing authority’s future success with redeveloping its properties.

FEMA released a press release on Sept. 20 announcing funding for the BHA’s Irene-related repairs and flood proofing.

The BHA will receive $290,000 through the Public Assistance program for its recovery work, said the release.

The feds agreed to the funding based on the BHA’s existing evacuation plan and promise to move its elderly and disabled residents at Melrose Terrace out of the flood zone as soon as possible.

FEMA does not normally grant funds for repairing or flood-proofing buildings, like Melrose Terrace, located in flood-prone areas, said Mark Landry, a FEMA federal coordinating officer for Vermont.

“FEMA recognizes that these are temporary measures, and that relocating these people safely outside the floodplain is the preferred solution,” said Landry. “But until that is accomplished, these steps, coupled with BHA’s evacuation plan, will allow the residents to continue to live in Melrose Terrace and to avoid the kind of costly property damages if another flood occurs similar in magnitude to Irene.”

According to the press release, insurance paid a bulk of the approximate $1 million in repairs at Melrose. FEMA agreed to contribute $90,000 in uninsured costs through the agency’s Public Assistance program.

The assistance program provides money to state, municipal, and certain nonprofit organizations to repair infrastructure damaged during disasters like roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools.

FEMA also agreed to provide about $200,000 from its mitigation program funding. Funds from this program aim to reduce the costs of future disasters through measures like flood-proofing “valuable buildings.”

The mitigation funding will go toward flood-proofing measures like installing aluminum flood shields in the doorways and around exterior electric panels, installing elevated electric heaters, and raising kitchen stove outlets and electric water heaters one foot above the 100-year flood elevation.

FEMA has pledged or paid to the state, approximately $129 million for public assistance related to Irene, said the press release. The agency has also provided $23 million in individual assistance to individuals and families.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #171 (Wednesday, September 26, 2012).

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