WILMINGTON -- Susan Haughwout looked over the thousands of pages of town documents with one overriding thought: That on that late Sunday in August, 2011, there was going to be a lot of heavy lifting.
Haughwout, Wilmington's Town Clerk, said she and others spent roughly two hours the morning of Aug. 28, moving files from the first floor to the second, using office chairs and the elevator.
Because of her determination and help from volunteers moving most of the records in the Town Offices to safety, those documents were returned on Friday.
Historic rainfall from Tropical Storm Irene flooded the building's first floor along Main Street, filling the rooms with more than four feet of water and debris.
After nearly a year, the Town Offices and Wilmington Police Department will reopen at the Town Hall on Monday, Aug. 6, renovated and rebuilt.
Since then, the offices have been located next to Shaw's while construction crews tore down sheetrock, replaced flooring and resealed the vault.
"We didn't lose any critical town records, but we lost some things that would have been nice to have as archives," Haughwout said. "It feels like a natural purge, but that's a heck of a way to get new carpeting, energy efficient windows and new furniture."
Haughwout, who also serves on the Selectboard, said when she and fellow board member Jim Burke were finally able to get back into the building following the storm they found
"Moisture is the enemy of records," she said. "We didn't want any more getting into the vault so we had it resealed."
The sealed walls and ceiling of the vault will now provide a much better atmosphere for the town documents stored there, Haughwout said.
Town Manager Scott Murphy, who was hired after Tropical Storm Irene hit, spent his first day in his new office organizing files and enjoying the view from the second floor.
"We're glad to be back in the building," he said. "Our contractor, Tom Mattarrocci, did a great job. The new layout of the first floor will be far more customer friendly."
Costs for the renovations were roughly $80,000, but the entire bill was paid by the town's flood insurance, Murphy said. The town's police department also got lucky, he said, as roughly $100,000 worth of equipment was destroyed but nearly everything was replaced with money from its flood insurance.
Among the renovations, a reception area was created to the right of the front door to be more welcoming for everyone, from those looking for directions to people needing to pay their taxes.
"Who doesn't want to be welcomed to pay their taxes?" Murphy said jokingly. "No one really enjoys paying taxes so it's nicer to have a friendly face greeting them. It's more professional too."
The benefits don't stop there, he said.
"Once people see us back in here in the building, it'll raise everyone's spirit," Murphy said.
There are also plans for the exterior of the building to be repainted in the next month or so.
"It's just one more step in the recovery process," Murphy said. "Now that we have the town offices and the police department back where they belong it gets us closer to normal."
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.