After nearly a year of planning what to do with the Waterbury office complex and Vermont State hospital the state could soon be back at square one. Federal Emergency Management Agency funding is not coming through.
Finance Commissioner Jim Reardon says FEMA has changed its tune. The state was expecting to get reimbursed for the majority of the costs for the Waterbury office complex and state hospital, now they know they won't get as much as they expected.
It dominated the Vermont legislative session.
"We knew we were faced with rebuilding Vermont as we entered the beginning of this session," said Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker, on March 20.
After battling for months over the number of beds to put in the Vermont State Hospital, the state now faces a new problem: How to pay for them.
"The federal government is not the state of Vermont. Getting answers out of them is slower and more complicated than it is dealing with anyone in Vermont," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Since September, Shumlin expected FEMA would be footing the bill. Friday morning lawmakers were told plans for the Waterbury office complex and the Vermont State Hospital might have to be re-evaluated. The estimated cost of construction for the Vermont State Hospital and the new state office complex is $183 million. The state of Vermont set aside $63 million during this legislative session and past year. That leaves a $120 million gap. A gap FEMA promised to pay 90 percent of.
"We are pushing FEMA as hard as we can to get the maximum amount that I feel we were promised for the state hospital and also for the reconstruction of the Waterbury complex, and they have not given us a definitive answer on what we are going to get," Shumlin said.
Shumlin says the state won't rebuild without federal dollars. Officials were not clear about what made FEMA change its commitment.
As for state workers who were promised they'd be back in Waterbury by 2015-- Reardon says nothing is off the table. So it could mean the groundbreaking date will be pushed back along with the end date or it could mean scrapping the plans the state has spent a year on and looking for a more financially feasible option.
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