HALIFAX -- Following an appeal of an earlier ruling, the town will be reimbursed by FEMA for additional money it spent on extending the Deer Park Road Bridge.
Around the state, FEMA has declined to fund certain bridge extensions that were required by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources as part of Tropical Storm Irene recovery work.
"It had been an ongoing fuss that the rules that FEMA put in place didn't allow the towns to actually get state permits," said Halifax's Irene Recovery Manager Christina Moore, whose company Storm Petrel had filed an appeal of the FEMA decision on behalf of Halifax. "Towns were having to fund these longer bridges out of their own pockets."
In Halifax, a seven-foot extension of the bridge that replaced the Deer Park Road Bridge was paid for by the town. Most of the replacement costs -- except for the extension -- were paid for by FEMA and the state. The new bridge currently satisfies ANR requirements, but the span and length necessary for the project had been up for debate. The decision means FEMA will soon forward nearly $20,000 to Halifax.
On Feb. 4, the same day that FEMA granted the appeal, a similar appeal by Chester was won. Both towns were granted the specific amount requested in the appeals.
Although there is some question on how this decision may affect other FEMA rulings around the state, officials are hopeful.
"There are other projects which we think we can present to FEMA as fact patterns now," said Vermont Emergency Management Public Assistance Officer Ben Rose. "I think there may be some benefits around the state as a result of this."
For these types of appeals, FEMA issues its own rulings. It found that Halifax's request had been reasonable and met the agency's criteria. So, the previously denied $18,577 will be handed over to the town.
"I have determined that the requested change to the scope of work to replace Deer Park Road Bridge is technically feasible, based on sound engineering, results in no increase in total estimated project cost and does not change the pre-disaster capacity of the bridge," stated the letter from FEMA Region 1 Acting Deputy Regional Administrator Doug Wolcott. "Therefore, FEMA will modify the scope of work ... to increase the span and length of the replacement bridge as requested by the applicant."
He stated that when the project is completed, the grantee "will perform a reconciliation of actual costs and transmit the information to FEMA for closeout."
Moore told the Reformer that the town will likely get paid within the next two to three months. The last payments from Irene recovery related reimbursements will be received by next spring.
The estimated value of recovery costs in Halifax was $4.447 million while the actual expenses were $4.421 million.
"We've received 89 percent of all the money we've spent. The state's been terrific about paying us back," said Moore.
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