Big dreams

Wilmington completes another phase in Irene recovery process

WILMINGTON — Wilmington's dreams for a better community will take the form of a report by April.

The next phase of the Long-Term Community Recovery (LTCR) process began last week when the town and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recovery specialists submitted a list of 29 proposed projects for internal FEMA review.

The proposed projects include increasing the community's telecommunications (like access to broadband), floodproofing public infrastructure, developing a single brand and marketing plan for the valley, encouraging people to buy locally, and obtaining a downtown designation from the state for Wilmington's historic village center.

The LTCR process and identification of community projects will strengthen the town's position when it seeks project support and financing.

“The community has identified local priorities as local needs and not just because money [like grants] may be available,” said LTCR Recovery Specialist Thomas Rounds.

Wilmington qualified for FEMA's LTCR process after Tropical Storm Irene turned the Deerfield Riverinto a raging torrent that swept through the town on Aug. 28, 2011, washing out roads and swamping buildings in the worst flooding since the 1938 hurricane.

On Jan. 17, a team of FEMA specialists opened the town's LTCR process, which helps towns rebuild after devastating disasters like Irene.

According to FEMA's website, disaster recovery occurs in phases, starting with helping disaster victims with food, housing, and clean water. After the initial disaster response, the community starts to clear debris and rebuild.

LTCR addresses the needs of communities hit by disasters so hard that they require specialized assistance to recover.

“Specialized assistance may be needed to address unique needs that are not satisfied by routine disaster assistance programs. It may also be required for very complex restoration or rebuilding challenges,” writes the agency on its website.

Rounds said now FEMA will take Wilmington's raw report and polish it into a publishable report by early April. With report in hand, the LTCR process shifts to finding what FEMA calls “recovery partners.”

At a spring recovery partner meeting, the community will have a chance to “pitch” its chosen projects to different groups.

FEMA does not provide funding for recovery projects, said Rounds. The agency will, however, act as matchmaker for federal agencies, organizations, or foundations able to support or fund the community's priorities.

There are no guarantees, said Rounds. “But it's an election year.”

Publication of the report in April marks the end of FEMA's four-month LTCR process.

“If you drag out [the schedule], you lose interest,” he said of the aggressive timeline. “If you do it too fast, people can't keep up.”

Rounds commended the Wilmington community on its resilience, resourcefulness, and we-can-do-it attitude. But, he said, now Wilmington must allow others to support the town's recovery.

His advice to the town?

Take advantage of Irene's damage and look outside Wilmington to see how the world can help, he said.

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