BRATTLEBORO -- In what has been a very difficult year to write the proposed 2015 budget, the town might have to find an additional $92,371 to pay for infrastructure damage from a severe thunderstorm that hit the area earlier this year.
At Tuesday night's Selectboard meeting, the board agreed to ask Town Meeting Representatives for the money to pay for the work that went into reconstructing Elm Street, which washed out during the heavy rain.
The storm on Sept. 11 dumped about five inches of rain on Brattleboro in less than two hours and Elm Street was severely damaged by the runoff that flowed down the steep grade into the Whetstone Brook.
"This affected primarily the downtown area and a lot of our infrastructure," Department of Public Works Director Steve Barrett told the Selectboard Tuesday. "It was difficult to keep up. The results of that was there was some severe damage to Elm Street and the Elm Street Bridge."
The town already spent the money on the road work but the board has to get the authority from Town Meeting Representatives to spend the money since it came out of the town's surplus funds.
The repair costs come at a time when the town is scraping together every penny to try to lessen the impact on taxpayers in 2015.
Barrett said the storm drain system along Canal Street was overwhelmed with the water and there was what he called a river running down Canal Street after the storm. The water flowed down Elm Street, ripping up asphalt and gravel and damaging part of the bridge there.
"What we had to do was fix this and stabilize this situation," Barrett said. "If we left it unattended it would have caused further damage and it would have cost a lot more money."
The street was closed through most of October while crews reconstructed the roadway and bridge. Working with local contractors, the town had to remove the pavement and repave the street. Gravel and base asphalt was applied and Barrett said crews also discovered that a bracket that held the water line running through the area had to be replaced.
"It was large project," Barrett said. "We were actually able to get the road open quickly."
Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the storm that day really concentrated on Brattleboro. Similar weather events in the past were part of more widespread storms and the town was able to receive state or federal help, but the Sept. 11 storm was different.
"In this instance there just simply wasn't enough widespread damage to warrant any FEMA involvement, or any other state agency involvement" Moreland said. "It really appeared the brunt of the storm occurred over downtown Brattleboro."
"To be clear. We've already spent this money," Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said. "And that's because we have a surplus and we were able to spend the money out of the bank account. And now the question is where is the money going to come from."
The board has been holding special budget meetings over the past few weeks and Gartenstein said Tuesday that the board was running out of options in finding money to support town services next year without a substantial tax increase.
The town could still end up with surplus this year that would go toward the Elm Street repair, but really any money the town may end up with at the end of the year could be used to offset the looming tax increase, and now there is about $92,000 available.
"One of the things that has really become clear is that the town's budget is about as tight as it could be," Gartenstein said. "There's really very, very little left to cut, and we're at the point where to maintain our infrastructure and provide our core and vital services we've got a substantial tax rate coming. It's been a difficult process and we've got something to show for it but there's going to be a substantial tax increase this year, not withstanding all of our best efforts."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.