Retreat work continues despite FEMA news

Thursday November 29, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- On-going work to renovate the Brattleboro Retreat so that it can provide long-term care for Vermont State Hospital patients will continue despite the announcement made Wednesday that the state will not receive the help it was expecting from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replace the damaged hospital in Waterbury.

Vermont Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding told lawmakers in Montpelier that FEMA determined that the hospital was not destroyed in the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

The determination, which the state received Tuesday, means that Vermont will not get 90-percent federal funding for the $43 million project to replace the Waterbury psychiatric hospital.

The state was counting on some of that money to cover the Retreat renovations.

Still, Spaulding said the state has other options in applying to FEMA to cover some of the costs, and he said the state will reimburse the Retreat for the $5.3 million renovation to its Tyler 4 building.

"This was just one of many potential options for us," Spaulding said in an interview Wednesday. "This will not change any of the plans we have for replacing the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. We are covering our bills at the Retreat right now, and we will continue to do that whatever FEMA ultimately decides."

In a letter to Spaulding, FEMA Coordinating Officer Mark Landry said damage to the two buildings at the Waterbury complex that housed the Vermont State Hospital totaled $903,754, much less than the estimated $11.2 million FEMA replacement estimate.

If the estimated cost to repair a building does not exceed 50 percent of the replacement cost, then FEMA will not provide the 90 percent aid.

"For the past 15 months, FEMA has continued to gather information from the state in order to evaluate whether or not any of these or other facilities meet the regulatory requirements for permanent relocation," Landry wrote. "Following my evaluation of this information, I have determined that none of the facilities were destroyed and that the facilities are not and will not be subject to heavy repetitive damage."

The state has 60 days to appeal the decision.

Spaulding said FEMA had a host of other programs and he said the Administration was investigating its options.

In the weeks following Tropical Storm Irene, Gov. Peter Shumlin said FEMA would likely cover 90 percent of the replacement costs associated with the replacing the Vermont State Hospital, including the work it would take to renovate the Retreat.

This summer Shumlin said there were indications that FEMA might not provide the 90 percent funding and Wednesday's announcement confirmed that.

"This was not the route we were focusing on during the last couple of months," Spaulding said. "We still believe there will be significant FEMA participation in the end."

Brattleboro Retreat Senior Vice President for Government Relations Peter Albert said the hospital hopes to have its new wing open in March.

The Retreat has been caring for State Hospital patients since Irene closed the Waterbury hospital, though the Retreat has had to delay some other renovations while it prepares the permanent floor for the more acute state patients.

Albert said the Retreat has already billed the state for some of the work and he said the Retreat has been receiving the compensation it was expecting.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or


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