Shumlin offers words of hope in Marlboro
MARLBORO -- Gov. Peter Shumlin's most recent stop on his tour of the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene landed him at Marlboro College Friday morning.
The governor spoke about the grit, toughness and reserve of Vermonters.
"I've never seen anything like the bravery and courage you folks have shown this past week," Shumlin said.
He thanked the road crews, emergency personnel and Selectboard members for their tireless work and wanted to let everyone know that there is hope.
"We're going to get through this," he said. "We're gonna rebuild the roads, put back people's homes, rebuild fire departments and schools."
In front of a crowd of more than 200, Shumlin explained what the government's next steps are in getting assistance to Windham County.
On Thursday President Barack Obama granted public emergency status to the state of Vermont, Shumlin said, and federal assistance will be arriving soon.
According to a FEMA spokeswoman, Windham County should be designated a disaster area soon.
When the county is granted that status, Shumlin said homeowners will be eligible for $30,400 in grants that won't have to be paid back, to help pay for clean-up costs, damages and lost possessions. He urged people to take pictures and keep receipts.
Businesses owners will also be able to take advantage of federal assistance through low-interest loans up to $250,000 and another loan for $20,000 that doesn't require payments for the first year and 1 percent interest after that.
The governor also said he expects power to be restored to everyone in the state by the middle of next week.
Craig Hammond, Selectboard member, asked the governor if there was something that could be done to prevent people from driving along Route 9 and limit speed along Ames Hill.
"The roads we do have need to be saved for resource trucks," Hammond said. "Calls to law enforcement have come up empty."
Shumlin said that police will be monitoring traffic and preventing vehicles from driving up Route 9, which has been limited to a single-lane for long stretches between Marlboro and Brattleboro.
People will be turned away if they try to drive Route 9 and will be cited heavily if they're speeding along Ames Hill, which is deemed a construction zone.
One resident said the 511 information number and website weren't working and asked if there was another way to get information or report damages.
Shumlin said, "don't use 511, call 211 instead. We do have that up and running. We're going to use this as an opportunity to learn."
Clarence Boston, the emergency management police and traffic coordinator, said he felt the pre-planning failed.
"We were an island for more than 36 hours," Boston said. "We couldn't get any help for the roads and it could get worse with people coming to visit and more rainfall. All the road crews' hard work could be washed away again."
Shumlin addressed the upcoming foliage season and how the state was going to deal with the thousands of tourists.
"We're going to rebuild quickly," he said.
The governor joked about how the tropical storm was going to make the leaves brighter and fuller of color because how much water they've received.
"Fall foliage is going to be the best ever because we've gotten so much water. Tell people to come by and spend their tourist dollars."
Shumlin added that people visiting the area to see the leaves change should be aware that they might not be able to use the roads they have previously and to be patient.
"Tourists should check with people about where they can and can't go, not just expect to be able to go wherever they may be used to going," he said.
Selectboard Chairwoman Lucy Gratwick said the governor's presence at the college provided hope.
"It makes the people down here feel acknowledged," she said.
Sean Conley, associate dean for Marlboro College Graduate School, said the undergraduate campus staff had been working at the Brattleboro campus, but now that routes are available both campuses are being offered as a place for people to work remotely.
The graduate school common room has several computers as well as a laptop station for people who can bring their own laptops, and one classroom is equipped with several computers for anyone who needs them, Conley said.
"We'd be happy to invite people to use this space as they wait for their Internet connections to come back on," he said.
Conley said the campuses could easily handle 20 people each.
"It's not much, but I know there are people out there whose work revolves around having Internet access -- something we're all set to provide," he said.
Anyone interested should contact Kelly Fletcher at 802-258-9202 to confirm space availability.
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.
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