Mood In Wilmington Is Upbeat, Six Months After Irene

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(Host) In many towns that saw serious damage from Tropical Storm Irene, budgets have been complicated by uncertainty over FEMA reimbursements and the costs of future repairs.

And yet in some of those hard-hit communities, the mood on Town Meeting Day seemed buoyant.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports from Wilmington – where voters passed a one-percent sales, rooms & meals tax to help finance the town’s post-disaster wish list.

(Voice) "Thanks to the people of Wilmington"

(Keese) The Wilmington meeting was punctuated by rousing ovations for those who helped after the August storm wiped out much of the downtown.

They cheered their neighbors, the National Guard and the town road crew.

They cheered second homeowners and out-of-town friends for personal donations that amounted to $118,000. The gifts will help offset looming Irene-related costs that weren’t reflected in the conservative, $3.7 million budget passed Tuesday.

Wilmington Select Board member Meg Streeter says more costs are coming.

(Streeter) "Our biggest worry in terms of Irene is a road collapsed, that’s an almost a million dollar project to repair, and a bridge collapsed – and we don’t yet have a determination from Fema on what their share of the costs will be… and we will probably have to borrow it, either via a bond vote or some other form of loan."

(Keese) Streeter says the bond vote, which could be as much as a million dollars, will probably be this summer.

Even so, voters approved an additional $90,000 to help cover the match portions of grants. Wilmington residents hope to use those grants to rebuild and improve their damaged town.

The one percent sales, rooms and meals tax approved by voters will also be used to leverage grants.

Wilmington was one of two Vermont towns chosen for a special FEMA Long-term recovery program. The program brings in experts in many fields to help citizens envision projects and priorities.

Tom Rounds, the FEMA project coordinator, says the town has come up with a list of more than 30 potential projects.

(Rounds) "And while Fema doesn’t come to this process to make grants, we can assist in locating funding partners that will help the community achieve what they’ve stated as their project objectives."

(Keese) Rounds says Wilmington will need that extra cash in the part of the process that lies ahead. 

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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