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Former top Douglas aide to lead Vt Irene recovery - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Former top Douglas aide to lead Vt Irene recovery

Neale Lunderville - File photo Neale Lunderville - File photo

Montpelier, Vermont - September 8, 2011

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has added a new face to his administration. Eleven days after Irene rocked our region, a former top aide to Gov. Jim Douglas-- who at one point led the state transportation agency-- will now lead Vermont's storm recovery.

"Neale, from the bottom of my heart, I'd like to thank you for taking this mission," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Neale Lunderville will take a temporary leave from his post at Green Mountain Power. For the next four months he'll spearhead efforts to get Vermont families back in their homes, businesses back on their feet and state infrastructure back on track. And it's going to take a lot of money.

"We need to look in every possible rabbit hole for every available dollar. We need to shake every tree. We will look in state budgets. We will look in federal budgets," Lunderville said.

On Thursday the governor said Vermont is now facing hundreds of millions of dollars in road damage. At its worst, 450 miles of state roads were shutdown; 57 miles are still not functioning. That includes 34 state roads.

"These closures don't get any easier to resolve as they get less numerous, as a matter of fact just the opposite is true," Vt. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles said.

But tremendous progress has been made. Crews have been able to reconnect the 13 communities that were originally cut off after the storm. The governor is now concentrating on the state's east-west corridors. Transportation officials say Route 9 will reopen this weekend and Route 4 will accommodate two-way traffic by next weekend. But transportation officials say in order to get the roads open so quickly they've had to implement many temporary fixes.

"It means that Vermonters can expect in damaged roads like Route 4 and Route 9 to be traveling on highways more reminiscent of their great-grandparents' highways than highways of 2011," Shumlin said.

Lunderville's appointment to the Shumlin administration is sparking political concern. Some critics say the governor's relationship with Green Mountain Power is already too close. But the governor's response is that Irene is oblivious to party lines. However, during Lunderville's tenure any decisions involving GMP will be handed by Vermont Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding.

Jennifer Reading - WCAX News

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