Will FEMA fund culvert repairs in Vermont? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Will FEMA fund culvert repairs in Vermont?

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The state of Vermont filed an appeal back in December after the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected full funding for projects, like a culvert in Townshend, because they did not meet codes and standards the federal agency uses. In the disputed cases, towns used larger replacement culverts to protect from future storm damage.

State and local officials testifying before lawmakers Wednesday say while FEMA has been very cooperative with funding the initial 90 percent of Irene-related infrastructure damage, the last 10 percent has been frustrating. State officials say nearly $10 million in Irene transportation projects are short-funded or haven't even been started because of uncertainty about FEMA funding.

"We have a bridge that's better and will last longer than what FEMA had proposed. So, the irony here is just incredible in just dealing with-- trying to get an understanding of why a government organization wouldn't approve something like this. It's just no common sense," said Brad Atwood, a member of the Sharon select board.

"FEMA has 90 days at the maximum to respond, but we sure wish we had answers sooner as towns are preparing their municipal budgets. The biggest issue is, what is the federal government going to reimburse theses towns," said Sue Minter, Vermont's Irene Recovery Officer.

FEMA has ruled-- at the regional level-- that it won't pay for the larger culverts, saying the state standards are not consistently applied.

"Certainly FEMA understands the position of towns who find themselves caught between FEMA's regulations and the state's regulations. Unfortunately, our hands are tied by federal law," said David Mace, a spokesman for FEMA.

A final FEMA decision is expected in mid-March. Till then, towns that still have projects pending will have to file for an extension or lose all hope of federal assistance.

On a related issue, FEMA officials said Wednesday they hope to complete the funding arrangements on the Waterbury office complex by the end of the month. That amount has not been announced.

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