Sen. Patrick Leahy, center, speaks with Secretary Lawrence Miller and Gail Nunziata of Latchis Arts during a press conference at the Latchis Theater in
Sen. Patrick Leahy, center, speaks with Secretary Lawrence Miller and Gail Nunziata of Latchis Arts during a press conference at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Friday. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Saturday March 16, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Members from various planning and development organizations around Windham County on Friday came to the Latchis Theater to visit with Sen. Patrick Leahy at a news conference.

"We work together, we Vermonters," Leahy said, in regard to post Tropical Storm Irene efforts.

On March 15, a day after the start of the Southern Vermont Post-Irene Recovery Project had been announced, attendees shared a few stories about the region during and after Irene. All who spoke expressed thanks for all who helped out since the storm ravaged the area almost 19 months ago.

The Southern Vermont Post-Irene Recovery Project will be funded primarily by a $472,000 grant from the U.S Economic Development Administration, which had been announced in December 2012.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Peter Welch and Leahy "fought to include special one-time EDA disaster funding in the 2011 disaster recovery bill, and then advocated for funding for the Windham Regional Commission and the Bennington County Regional Commission in a letter sent to the EDA Regional Director in June 2012," according to a press release from Leahy.

The Windham Regional Commission and Bennington County Regional Commission will be leading the Post-Irene Recovery Project. The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation will have a sub-grant, which is being used to bring two Irene Recovery Officers to the area. Both officers were introduced at the news conference.


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Anthony Summers will be an Irene Recovery Officer in Windham County, while Wendy Rae Woods will be working mostly in Bennington County.

The officers will work with municipalities first in March, then go around and meet the businesses that need help in April. They expect to hear about what businesses are facing difficulties from the municipalities.

"As flood recovery officers, we're going to work on bringing businesses back," said Summers.

After meeting the business owners and developing relationships, he and Woods will then be providing resources necessary for addressing unmet needs.

"The day of the flood, I toured all over Bennington County ... and then I went to Wilmington and was just stunned by the impact that Irene had done to that beautiful, little town," said Woods. "I witnessed the devastation, heard their stories, really, really felt their fears and concerns. And I sort of, at that moment, decided that I was doing to do something and work towards helping them."

During the news conference, it was announced that more than $240,000 will be awarded in grants to businesses in Windham and Windsor Counties that have felt the impact of Irene. These grants will come from the BDCC and Springfield Regional Development Corporation.

"These initial grant funds are the first of three rounds of grant applications and comes from a $1 million disaster (Community Development Block Grant) the state awarded BDCC and SRDC after Leahy, Sanders, Welch and Shumlin helped secure a $21.7 million disaster CDBG allocation from (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). BDCC and SRDC applied for the funding to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to assist businesses with remaining unmet needs to rebuild their flood affected business," a press release from Leahy said.

Businesses interested in post-Irene help can apply through the by calling the BDCC at 802-257-7731 or the SRDC at 802-885-3061.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.