Gov. Peter Shumlin said today that the four proposals for locating state workers displaced by Tropical Storm Irene were too expensive for taxpayers, ranging from $108 million for a new building in Montpelier to $142 million for a significant overhaul of the Waterbury site. Therefore, the Governor and Legislative leaders are working together to finalize a plan that taxpayers can afford in these tough fiscal times.
Gov. Shumlin, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Legislative leaders announced a plan to return approximately 700 workers from the Agency of Human Services to the Waterbury complex, accepting a scaled-back proposal that would essentially flood-proof and renovate the existing facility at an acceptable cost shared by FEMA, the state's insurance company and taxpayers. The plan also creates a public-private partnership for portions of the site.
Employees with the Department of Public Safety assigned to Waterbury have already returned to the state complex.
The Waterbury option was one of four outlined last week by Burlington architecture firm Freeman French Freeman. After working to scale back the Waterbury proposal and its cost, the Governor and legislators agreed that -- using FEMA federal funds and insurance reimbursement following Tropical Storm Irene damage -- the Waterbury option was the best for the state.
"We have worked hard to bring our workers back to downtown Waterbury at a cost Vermont taxpayers can afford, and in a manner that guarantees the site won't suffer serious flood damage in the future," Gov. Shumlin said. "We're still not certain how much FEMA funding or insurance money will be coming, but we're comfortable that Human Services employees can safely return to Waterbury at a reasonable cost."
"By reaching consensus on this proposal we allow the committees to work out details, and we may even be able to reduce the construction timeline," said Lt. Gov. Scott. "We also eliminate the uncertainty that state employees and the town of Waterbury have faced since Tropical Storm Irene hit in August."
"Waterbury has played a critical role in state government for decades," said House Speaker Shap Smith. "I am pleased we have found a direction that will return a large number of state employees to Waterbury, as a part of a plan that will ensure a more efficient and effective state government."
In addition, Gov. Shumlin and lawmakers also agreed to a proposal to create 45 acute care beds in the state's mental health care system, including up to 25 beds in a new hospital, six at the Rutland Regional Medical Center and 14 at the Brattleboro Retreat. That decision was reached after the Shumlin administration received assurances late yesterday afternoon from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that, through the Global Commitment Demonstration, Vermont can either expect financial reimbursement for patients in a 25-bed facility, or reduce the number of licensed beds to 16 if the Global Commitment Demonstration is not renewed in 2013 and reimbursement is denied.
"We are developing the most progressive and community-based mental health care system in the nation," Gov. Shumlin said.