A resilient Readsboro sprang into action from day one of disaster cleanup and today boasts only one road project left to complete thanks to quick work by town, state, and FEMA officials. As selectboard member Teddy Hopkins explains, “The town of Readsboro along with the town’s fire department responded instantly, along with many other local volunteers. The state of Vermont and FEMA both did an A-plus job assisting the town.”
Perhaps the most widespread effect Irene had on the town’s population was damage to the drinking water supply line. Residents in the downtown area without wells or a stockpile of bottled water spent their first few weeks after the storm observing a boil water order.
The order came after a 20-foot section of the town’s water supply pipe broke beneath the West Branch of the Deerfield River. While this proved to be an inconvenience to residents, the point at which the pipe broke was close to the Lions Club Park bridge, and the town used this as an opportunity to run a new water pipe across the bridge, as well as repair damage to the existing pipe. Readsboro Superintendent of Public Works Barry Howes thought this a “convenient resolution,” citing the swift cooperation between the Lions Club and the town. Howes also explained that the fixed water pipe is not currently in use, but serves as a handy and necessary backup.
Just over $198,000 was spent on repairing the town’s water distribution system.
Howes got his hands dirty in approximately 20 projects across Readsboro, overseeing any work pertaining to public infrastructure. “When it (Irene) happened it was overwhelming,” Howes explained, “There were serious issues to take care of, but we (the town) have a lot of our own equipment which helped, and the state and FEMA did a quick, good job.”
Howes’ projects included repairing numerous roads and bridges. Of the 20 project worksheets the town had, 17 pertained to road damage.
Among the most important roads Howes oversaw construction on was Vermont Route 100, an obvious priority for access to the town. Route 100 experienced five separate washouts along the stretch connecting Heartwellville and downtown Readsboro. The town ran a detour up Bailey Hill Road while Howes and his crew of four worked on the roads. Subcontractors were also hired to complete excavation and rebuild the steeper embankments that experienced washouts.
Howes also said the town was relatively lucky in relation to the scope of damage in neighboring communities.
The total cost of repair for Readsboro’s roads reached $538,664. Of the $737,043 spent to repair both roads and water distribution, the town has already received $553,000 from FEMA, with an outstanding balance on the remaining costs until a final review is made to verify that all project worksheets have been approved.
A resolution has proven elusive however in the case of a washed out culvert on Ruba Road.
The town has taken its time with this particular project, citing the absence of houses past the point of damage. While the town originally planned on using FEMA grant money to fix the washed out three-foot culvert, a Vermont Agency of Transportation hydraulic assessment has recommended a new six-foot culvert be built to better ensure long-term stability for the site. Another necessity for the project will be a stream alteration permit. FEMA has already provided $32,582 of the $36,0000 allotted to the project, and an 18-month action deadline approaching in March of 2013 has the selectboard considering asking for a time extension until an official plan is hammered out.
If an extension is not achieved, the town runs the risk of losing grant money for the project. Ruba Road is the sole project yet to be concluded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
While the majority of Readsboro has been put back together, not all of Irene’s destruction could be fixed by subcontractors and heavy equipment.
Three houses on School Street that rest along the West Branch of the Deerfield River were destroyed after floodwater eroded the embankment behind their houses. Residents Barbara Keith, Holly and Rodney Caruso, and Mary and Richard Lemaire were all forced to find lodging elsewhere with FEMA providing finances to offset their new lodging costs.
While Hopkins says that the actual execution of exchange of ownership has not been completed yet, all of the homeowners have agreed, along with the selectboard, to a FEMA plan in which the town takes over ownership of the properties.
Under the plan, FEMA will reimburse the landowners 75% of the worth of their house and provide upward of $20,000 for demolition of each structure. The cost of demolition cannot be officially determined until a bid process is announced and executed by the selectboard.
Last year, town administrator Mark Shea also began seeking non-FEMA funds to help the homeowners with the 25% FEMA would not be covering.
According to Hopkins, “Additional grants are being made available to the landowners but this action is secondary and will take place after the transfer of property; if the transfers keep taking longer to finalize, then perhaps the second wave of grants may coincide with the transfer of ownership.”