BRATTLEBORO -- The flood waters have receded, the decision has been made to move the residents out of Melrose Terrace and the process has begun to find a new location for the approximately 80 residents who now call the West Brattleboro public housing complex, "home."
But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is still trying to decide if it will pay for repairs at Melrose that were a result of last year's flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
FEMA is collecting public input on its proposed mitigation plan at Melrose Terrace, and will accept comments until Sept. 12 as the slow process toward federal funding creeps forward.
"The relationship that the housing authority has with FEMA is much better than it was immediately after Irene," said Brattleboro Housing Authority Executive Director Chris Hart. "I'm pretty confident this is going to work out for us in the end."
BHA is hoping to receive about $300,000 from FEMA toward the approximately $1.2 million the housing authority has had to spend to move its residents and repair Melrose Terrace following Tropical Storm Irene.
Hart said the public comment period for the FEMA environmental review process is only the latest in a very long and drawn out process to get the federal assistance for work that has largely been completed for months now.
Hart explains that the process of applying for FEMA funding has been drawn out, and frustrating at times, but
At first BHA was tangled up in its own fight with the town over the substantial damage declaration that the zoning administrator filed.
FEMA was keeping a close watch on those proceedings, Hart said.
Then FEMA seemed to need extra time understanding how the housing authority figured into its federal application process.
A few months ago BHA decided that Melrose Terrace would, in fact, be closed in the next few years, due to flood damage, and BHA and FEMA have been working closely to make sure money is not spent on properties that will be closed or on mitigation steps that might not be appropriate.
Melrose Terrace would not be built in its current location today, FEMA says.
"Although a short term solution for relocating residents has not been identified, BHA is very cognizant of the fact that residents, and particularly this elderly and disabled population, remain in jeopardy from future flooding," FEMA's public notice reads.
BHA has already started its process of finding an alternative site for the people at Melrose Terrace.
The organization held its third public meeting on the public housing issue this week and is considering six sites around town for future development.
BHA hopes to decide this fall which site, or sites, are best suited for the housing project.
Hart said state officials, and Vermont's Congressional delegation, have been helping the process along, and after a few months when it seemed like everyone was spinning their wheels, the process does seem to be moving forward.
"No one wants to waste money, and we, and FEMA, don't want to pay for something that we are going to have to rip out," said Hart. "We have to go through this public process, and even though it is moving slowly, I feel like we are much more further along than we were a few months ago."
Comments on the proposed FEMA funding for Melrose Terrace can be sent Jack.Sullivan@fema.dhs.gov, or by faxing 617-956-7574.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer