First look at the damage flooding caused at Vermont’s Capitol Complex

Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The cleanup continues from last month’s floods in Montpelier. Now, for the first time, we’re getting a look at the damage inside and under the Capitol Complex. Some buildings fared better than others, but those that were hit, were devastated.

Montpelier’s downtown was slammed by the floods. Down State Street, government buildings also took it on the nose.

“Every wire, every panel will have to be repaired,” said Dave DiBiase, the deputy commissioner of the Vt. Department of Buildings and General Services.

DiBiase took us underneath the Capitol Complex, which took on seven feet of water, and to the Pavilion Auditorium, a familiar site of Gov. Phil Scott’s COVID-19 press conferences. It was inundated with contaminated floodwater and is now stripped out.

Nearly 200 contractors are working daily in a labyrinth of tunnels that connect the offices of the governor, attorney general and treasurer to the Supreme Court, and then to the Tax Department under the Statehouse lawn.

Remediation experts, architects, electricians, plumbers, utility crews, state employees and others are pumping out, cleaning, stripping, remediating, rewiring and rebuilding every day.

Perhaps the biggest challenge-- under new state flood regulations, all heating, cooling and electric systems have to be brought above the flood plain, which means onto the first floor.

“We’re spending a lot of time on the administrative side to make sure we are compliant with code,” DiBiase said.

The cost of rebuilding and retooling HVAC in these historic buildings is expected to be astronomical. Leaders don’t dare put a price tag on it or a date of completion.

“Meeting regularly to understand the size and scope of what we’re up against,” DiBiase said.

Inflation, workforce shortages and supply chains will likely pose problems.

“We know that elevator parts are 20-30 weeks out after we order them,” DiBiase said.

State employees are working remotely, a practice adopted during the pandemic.

“They really provide a lot of the life and the vitality to our downtown,” Montpelier Mayor Jack McCullough said.

Local leaders say local tax revenue was already hurting, and the longer they’re gone, the bigger the impact on businesses struggling to recover.

“We’ve been hurting because we haven’t had the foot traffic and the customers that we really count on in the city. And with this, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” McCullough said.

The buildings being knocked offline also raise questions about the future of brick-and-mortar offices and what role remote work plays, as the nation’s smallest Capitol continues down the road to recovery.

The flood has raised many questions for Montpelier, including where and how to rebuild. There’s a forum in Montpelier Thursday night to discuss current challenges the community faces and longer-term ones. It’s at Alumni Hall at the Vermont College of Fine Arts from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Click here for more information.