FEMA OKs tearing down Irene-damaged offices in Waterbury - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

FEMA OKs tearing down Irene-damaged offices in Waterbury

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

The Waterbury state office complex is a ghost town. Some 1,500 people used to work there-- it was the heartbeat of state government. But almost two years ago, Tropical Storm Irene flooded the complex. The Shumlin administration promised to rebuild, but got in a funding battle with the federal government, leaving Waterbury waiting.

Hiata DeFeo owns Bridgeside Books in Waterbury.

"I know it has hit some businesses very hard. The noontime traffic is not what it used to be," DeFeo said.

At the Statehouse, when asked by reporters about progress at Waterbury, Gov. Peter Shumlin let big news slip.

"I just gave the story away," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

The governor says the state just got verbal approval from Federal Emergency Management Agency to start demolition on some buildings at the state office complex. The approval was needed to meet the timeline to reopen the complex in 2015 and bring back about 1,000 employees.

Gov. Peter Shumlin: We want to get to work.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: So, you want to-- when do you think that will happen?

Gov. Shumlin: We think we will be in working in the next day-- I wish Jeb (Spaulding) were here-- or two, week or two, very soon. We have been waiting for this authorization so we are ready to rock.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding was not there when the governor let the news out early and quickly arrived to the press conference.

Gov. Shumlin: I was looking for you.

Jeb Spaulding: What did you tell them?

Gov. Shumlin: I told them you had it all figured out.

Jeb Spaulding: This next piece will allow us to start the wrecking ball in the next few months.

Gov. Shumlin: I said we'd start in a couple of hours. You say a couple of months?

Jeb Spaulding: Uh... we are moving as fast as we can. The letter could be here in a couple of hours-- or this week for sure.

Spaulding says the official FEMA approval letter will arrive this week.

Kristin Carlson: Were you surprised to hear the governor say that today?

Rep. Tom Stevens: Pleasantly surprised.

"I think when the buildings come down people will get excited and realize that in a couple of years we will have a whole new complex there," said Stevens, D-Waterbury.

"That's great news," DeFeo said. "Great for Waterbury, great to hear."

DeFeo says progress at Waterbury will help businesses hang on, knowing an end is in sight.

"I think it will make people feel better to see that visually something is happening," DeFeo said.

One question that remains is how much money the state will be reimbursed from FEMA for the $124 million project. There's been a lot of back and forth and miscommunication. The governor says an answer is now expected in the next few weeks and he is expecting good news-- that the state will get $40 million-$50 million dollars, which is the amount lawmakers have budgeted for.

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