Aug. 28, 2011, Irene ripped through the Waterbury Office Complex and the Vermont State Hospital, changing state government for the foreseeable future. State employees took refuge in offices around the state; patients took refuge in prison and neighboring hospitals, as lawmakers began negotiations for reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"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," Gov. Peter Shumlin said on July 20, 2012.
This summer, we learned the estimated cost of construction for the Vermont State Hospital and the new state office complex is $183 million. The state hospital accommodations make up nearly $45 million of that total. The Legislature built its budget around the assumption that FEMA would foot 90 percent of Irene-related damages to state government property.
"The Legislature operated under the assumption that funding for the new state hospital and the replacement for the Waterbury Complex was not in question," Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock said on July 31, 2012.
Brock turned it into a campaign issue this fall. He released an email thread between Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and FEMA representatives. Nowhere in these emails does FEMA hint at a total reimbursement estimate, something state government has been waiting for ever since and still doesn't have.
"It's really too early to try and put a number out there, a lot of it will depend on a variety of factors that still have to be determined," said David Mace of FEMA.
FEMA did announce Tuesday whatever funds are made available Vermont did not qualify for a 90 percent reimbursement for the state office complex and state hospital buildings. Mace says FEMA told the Shumlin administration this would be the likely outcome all along.
"I think it was made clear early on that this would be a very difficult threshold to meet," Mace said.
All summer long the governor guaranteed Vermont would get the funding it needs, saying we can't do this without them.
"Without FEMA we will be in deep trouble," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Three months later, the governor says they're still working closely with FEMA to explore other options, but admits it could take years.
FEMA representatives say they do guarantee some support. They plan to present estimated totals to the administration in January.
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