Kellie Merrell is a work nomad -- not by choice, but by Irene.
"This is where I would squat when Jon Miller is in," Merrell said.
She is an environmental scientist. Her lab, equipment and Waterbury office all were damaged last year in the flooding. "It was unbelievable to see the destruction," she said.
Merrell was assigned a desk in Winooski at VSAC, but often starts her work day at the St. Johnsbury state office, closer to her Danville home.
Irene has uprooted not just her desk, but how she works. Merrell spends about four days a week -- testing water quality in Vermont's lakes and ponds. Before Irene, everything she needed was in Waterbury where she worked.
But this is where everything is now. Merrell lives in Danville. She has the St. Johnsbury office and a desk in Winooski. The boats she needs are spread out -- in Essex, Middlesex and in storage in Waterbury.
The state is using Labs at UVM, where equipment and samples need to be picked up and dropped off everyday. That's all before she can really start her day and head out to test water all across the state. "Just the in between shuttling things and -- 'oh gosh' -- something got left here and you really thought it was here; so that's been quite a challenge.
It adds up to more overtime for her -- at least an hour a day -- during the busy water sampling season, and hundreds of extra miles put on state cars. Merrell is like about 1,270 state employees displaced by Irene.
"We do get frustrated. We think there are people at the top -- can't they do it faster? But you know this is all a major disaster and no one could be prepared for the aftermath of this," Merrell said.
After Irene the state employees union surveyed workers. Of the 700 who responded, 1/3 said they are looking to leave state government because of logistical problems post Irene. "I like to make the analogy sometimes to our crew that we are like Apollo 13. Ground control is there. They care about us but they really can't help us. We really need to find that piece of duct tape and solve this ourselves," she said.
The Shumlin administration plans to relocate the Agency of Natural Resources to National Life in Montpelier to be closer to the Transportation Agency. Merrell is expecting to move next month, but her equipment will still be spread out. "The immediate aftermath of Irene was solving problems and now I'm figuring that those lessons were good to learn because I'm still operating in that mode," she said.
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