PUTNEY -- Town officials met recently to go over the new draft hazard mitigation plan, which Putney hopes to submit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the coming months.
The town's fire chief, road foreman, planning and conservation commission members, and others, looked over the document to make sure high-risk areas throughout town were addressed in the document.
Now, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard says, it is time to hear from the public.
Copies of the plan are available around town, and on the town website, and Stoddard is asking the public to look it over and offer input and suggestions on the plan, and also to possibly point out new areas of town that might require steps to prevent widespread damage in the event of a natural emergency.
"We are inviting more people into this process," Stoddard said. "We know there are people who have lived here for many years, and they are the ones who can help us identify areas that might benefit from mitigation work."
Putney's hazard mitigation plan currently is in draft form and will be turned over to FEMA for approval after the public input period is over.
Stoddard said there is no deadline, but the town hopes to have it in to FEMA in a few months. Once FEMA approves the plan it is in use for five years.
Towns put together plans to help municipal officials make long-term commitments toward preventing damage, but the plans are also required for any town that wants to apply for FEMA hazard mitigation money
Stoddard said that while town officials are looking for sections of road that might be susceptible to flooding or ice damage, they also want to know historic information on hillsides or low lying areas that might benefit from mitigation work.
"We are asking people to come in and talk about areas they might know about," she said. "There might be places we don't deal with on a regular basis."
She stressed that this plan is for mitigation steps to take before an event to prevent damage, and not for how to respond to emergencies.
Ray Doherty, Vermont Hazard Mitigation Officer, says that while FEMA wanted towns to have mitigation plans in place long before Tropical Storm Irene slammed the state, the historic floods of August 2011 convinced municipalities all over the state to update their plans.
Now, he said, about 80 percent of the towns and cities in Vermont have plans, or are in the process of turning their plans in to FEMA for approval.
"We can't force towns to do their hazard mitigation plans, but if they want to apply for FEMA funding, they have to have their plans in place," Doherty said. "There were a lot of lessons learned during Irene and everybody is more mindful about how to do their mitigation plans more effectively. We have definitely noticed an uptick in interest. People are taking this more seriously."
Windham Regional Commission Executive Director Chris Campany said the hazard mitigation plans should go hand-in-hand with planning and zoning bylaws, and other land use documents.
"Sometimes emergency managers say they are not involved with planning, and planning commissioners say they don't address hazard mitigation plans, but we would argue that they are inherently tied together," said Campany. "I'm happy to see that Putney is out there trying to engage the public in this."
You can also e-mail Stoddard at email@example.com or mail comments to 127 Main St., P.O. Box 233, Putney, Vt. 05346.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org.