FEMA, State To Buy Out 76 Flood-Prone Properties

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(Host) The federal government and the state of Vermont are moving to purchase homes that were heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

Roughly $20 million has been allocated to buy 76 properties in the first phase of the program and state officials are planning on several more buyout programs in the future.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Under the guidelines of this program, homeowners will receive the appraised value of their house as long as they agree never to develop the property in the future.

Initially, 76 homes that are located in high risk flood areas will receive almost $20 million. $15 million will come from the federal government and the state of Vermont will pick up the tab for the remaining $5 million. 

Properties in 26 towns have been identified for the first phase of this program.

Standing outside of the Northfield Fire Station, Vermont’s Irene Recovery chief Sue Minter said the program marks an important milestone in the state’s recovery effort.

(Minter) "You’ve heard the stories of the immediate response, neighbor helping neighbor. Now we hear the federal government and the state government really trying to help us look to the future. It is bittersweet for this community and especially the families who will need to move on."

(Kinzel) One Northfield family that will have to move on is Bonnie and Michael Pemberton. She says that while she looks forward to having a new home, the transition hasn’t been easy.

(Pemberton) "We had out-of-staters in our basement digging the mud out – people that were just generous in any form or way that they could help. And the hardest thing I think has been, for us, the fact that we’ve had to move and live in strangers’ homes and not have our own comfortable stuff. But eventually we will and we want to thank everybody."

(Kinzel) Peter Renart is the lead recovery officer in Vermont for the Federal Emergency Management Administration. He said he’s never seen so much cooperation between local, state and federal officials.

(Renart) "It’s really been an unprecedented partnership here. I’ve worked in many, many states, working on these disasters and I have never seen anything that has been as thorough and as effective from the very beginning when the disaster was unfolding right through to the recovery programs to where we are today."

(Kinzel) The program will also include a number of flood mitigation projects to help protect local roads, bridges and culverts in the future.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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