Words like shock, misinformation and doubt: That's how Randy Brock chooses to characterize the news that Vermont won't get hundreds of millions the administration says it was promised by FEMA to fix Tropical Storm Irene damage to the Waterbury state office complex and state hospital.
"Certainly in terms of what we heard on the floor of the Senate when we voted on the capital bill there was no question that the funding was not going to be available," said Brock, Republican for governor.
Up until June 28 the state operated under the assumption that FEMA would come through with a significant match. That's when FEMA changed the state liaison. The Shumlin administration now says the first liaison had misled them, telling the state it would qualify for more federal funding for both projects.
"The information that he had given us-- and he is no longer with FEMA-- wasn't shared by the people who are on the job now," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
February emails between the administration and FEMA representatives released Tuesday repeatedly say "we don't have the legal authority to give a conceptual okay" as it relates to funding.
"We have never gotten a clear number from FEMA on the state hospital or the Waterbury complex. We continue to work with FEMA to get the best that we can," Shumlin said.
But back in February, the governor's proposal to officials working on the state budget assumes FEMA will provide a 90-10 match for the Vermont State Hospital. Granted, the Shumlin administration was very careful, constantly using words like assume, anticipate and believe as it relates to FEMA funding. Brock argues if the Legislature had known there were doubts about how much FEMA would pay, a contingency plan could have been put in place.
"In February FEMA told the Shumlin administration that they didn't have the legal authority to give a conceptual OK," Brock said. "These warnings weren't told to the Legislature. The question is why weren't we told? Why weren't Vermonters told?"
But if you look at the capital bill itself that Brock helped pass, the language clearly states, "amounts of potential funding from various sources are not clear upon passage of this act." In a disaster scenario the administration made the decision to press forward, hoping the funding would come through.
"Without FEMA we will be in deep trouble, not only for the state hospital but for the Waterbury complex. So, I will continue to work with our congressional delegation to push FEMA for the money we need. They will probably continue to push back," Shumlin said.
FEMA officials are expected to give the state a hard number in the coming weeks.
The Shumlin administration says this setback shouldn't delay the re-entry date of the Waterbury office complex or Vermont State Hospital, but it will push back the demolition date for projects. They were hoping to break ground on the new complex on the anniversary of the storm-- in 27 days.
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