Letter box

Saturday December 1, 2012

FEMA is paying
to upgrade culverts, bridges

Editor of the Reformer:

There appears to be a misperception among some in the public that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to pay for larger culverts or other improved infrastructure to replace or repair those damaged by Tropical Storm Irene (editorial, Page 4, Nov. 26). This is simply not true.

FEMA can and does provide funding for additional measures that will improve a facility’s ability to resist similar damage in future events. FEMA provides this assistance as Section 406 hazard mitigation as part of the Public Assistance funding for the permanent repair of disaster damaged public infrastructure, including culverts and bridges. These measures must be cost effective and are generally limited to 15 percent of project costs. Additional funding of certain other measures, such as installation of rip-rap and headwalls, may also be eligible where they are cost effective and feasible.

So far FEMA has paid out at least $6.2 million in Section 406 mitigation funding to the state of Vermont and municipalities for these kinds of upgrades on dozens of Irene-related projects around the state.

In addition to Section 406 mitigation funding, FEMA has provided potentially millions more in upgrades required to meet codes and standards.

There there has been a disagreement between FEMA and the state and some communities is over the question of upgrading infrastructure beyond this level to meet the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ (ANR) Stream Alteration Permit requirements.

As a general rule, FEMA will pay to upgrade infrastructure like bridges and culverts to meet state, county, or local codes and standards. However, FEMA’s rules require these codes and standards to meet several criteria to be eligible for reimbursement.

Some are fairly basic. For example, the code or standard must have been in place at the time of the federally-declared disaster. Others are more complex, and the criterion that has been at the center of this disagreement is one that says the code or standard cannot be discretionary in nature, or enforcement.

This means that standard must be applied the same way to every project, every day of the year. FEMA has determined that ANR’s Stream Alteration Permit does not meet this criterion.

The public policy rationale for these criteria is simple: Federal assistance is based on the standards a community has in place and adheres to at the time of a disaster. This provides a fair and consistent playing field for all communities across the country, and it encourages adoption of appropriate standards that a community can benefit from at all times, and not just when a Federal disaster is declared.

FEMA recognizes the need to rebuild infrastructure better and stronger to be able to withstand the next natural disaster that might strike. However, the question of how much stronger -- and how much FEMA will pay -- is guided by federal law and policy.

FEMA will continue to pay to upgrade infrastructure damaged by Irene to the maximum extent allowed by law.

Mark H. Landry,

FEMA federal
coordinating officer,

Nov. 28

BF Charter vote set for Dec. 4

Editor of the Reformer:

To all Bellows Falls citizens: Now, only a few days before the vote of Dec. 4 on the proposed changes to the Bellows Falls Village Corporation Charter, I wanted to make something abundantly clear.

What the charter most certainly is: An honored and historic document created by the founders of this village in keeping with the Vermont Constitution; the backbone of the incorporated village defining the structure of our chosen form of government; a light of transparency to guide our way in all prudential matters for the benefit of the citizens of the village; a tool, which like any other, requires updating, from time to time, to match legislative changes and by which, all functions of the village should be described.

What the Charter is clearly not: A means by which, in any way, prevents merger, if the voters of the village so choose; a blind to hide the truth from the citizens of the village; instructions to allow the deconstruction of any office of village government which the voters have so moved to create; a thing to be feared as providing more power than is duly available to the elected BFVC Board of Trustees as per allowance of the registered voters of said village.

Those who have been spreading negativism about this matter have an underlying agenda and they wish to accomplish it by disemboweling the Charter of the Village of Bellows Falls. Do not let this happen. Complete the process and turn out to vote on Dec. 4. Bring a friend. Call for a ride to the polls if you need one. Thank you.

Deborah Wright,

Bellows Falls, Nov. 29


Editor of the Reformer:

Dec. 4 is the date for an important vote on adoption of the Amended Charter for the Bellows Falls Village Corporation. My letter appearing below is not intended to represent the positions of other Village officials. While I serve as a Village Trustee and have also served on the Charter Revision Committee, what follows here is offered as my personal perspective.

The Amended Charter is the first revision of the Charter in many decades and is the product of a revision process that began several years ago. Over the past 14 months, the Charter Revision Committee met 12 times in legally warned public meetings. The revision process included two public hearings for the public to ask questions and to request changes. After careful consideration, the Trustees voted to include portions of changes requested by citizens at the hearings.

During just the past few weeks the Amended Charter has been inaccurately characterized by a few people opposing its passage. At an Oct. 30 Joint Board meeting, the opposition’s displeasure culminated in a spokesman for a recently formed group calling upon Village Trustees to cancel the scheduled vote. Prudently, the Trustees did not stop the orderly democratic process already underway. Village officials need to represent the interests of all Village citizens, and not just the most vocal meeting attendees. The vote remains on schedule.

The Amended Charter has been subject to careful legal review both during and following the revision process. In content and spirit, and in the plainest possible language the Amended Charter specifies how our Village is governed. Also included are: General clarifications; Alignment with current Vermont statutes; and enhancements to the protection of our Village watershed. Importantly, the Amended Charter also continues to retain the positions of three elected auditors. No changes were made to either the length of terms of officials, or to the form of village government. Other important areas are also addressed.

A summary of the amendments appears on the warning for the Special Meeting and also on the ballot. The full text of the Bellows Falls Village Corporation Charter Amendments for Vote on Dec. 4 can be found posted, and with copies available at the Rockingham Library; at the Rockingham Town Hall; or online at www.rockbf.org.

If you have questions, I’m at 802-460-1163, or e-mail me at bfaccord@gmail.com.

Andrew Smith,

Bellows Falls, Nov. 28


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