FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate joined Gov. Peter Shumlin and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, representatives of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch, and several state and local officials, in Waterbury today to announce that the reconstruction of the Waterbury State Office Complex, severely damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 is now moving forward.
The reconstruction has been approved as the first project in the country to take advantage of the flexibility and financial incentives for hazard mitigation for permanent work under the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures Pilot Program, included in federal legislation passed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Of the estimated $125,000,000 total price tag for the reconstruction project, FEMA confirmed today that $53 million in costs will be eligible for FEMA Public Assistance or insurance participation. The renovation and reconstruction of the Waterbury State Office Complex is the largest capital project ever undertaken by the state of Vermont.
This assistance is in addition to the $30 million previously announced to assist in rebuilding Vermont's mental health care system, including a new 25-bed psychiatric facility in Berlin to replace the Vermont State Hospital decimated by Irene. The FEMA announcement today fully meets the Administration's estimate of anticipated support as reflected in the Capital Budget submitted to the Legislature last January. As was the case with the eligible costs for the new psychiatric facilities, the portion of the Waterbury project eventually covered by FEMA Public Assistance rather than insurance will be subject to a 90/10 federal/state match.
"This is great news for Vermonters. After months of persistence and the hard work with our FEMA partners, Vermont's congressional delegation and my administration, we have reached a FEMA funding outcome that allows the reconstruction and renovation of the Waterbury State Office Complex to begin in earnest," the Governor said. "This project will be funded with significant FEMA and insurance contributions, allowing us to create an efficient, resilient 21st Century workspace and to bring back state workers to Waterbury, without exceeding the state's bonding capacity or raising taxes."
"Tropical Storm Irene was the most destructive natural disaster to hit Vermont in more than 80 years," said FEMA Administrator Fugate. "Recovering from a disaster like this is a team effort. In Waterbury and elsewhere in Vermont we've seen a partnership between local, state and federal government, along with our private-sector and non-profit partners. I commend the Governor for investing in a stronger and more resilient Vermont."
In addition to the $53 million available for reconstruction, FEMA announced that another $36 million of costs related to the project already paid by the state, such as temporary relocation, asbestos removal, and cleanup, are eligible for FEMA Public Assistance and insurance reimbursement.
The newly-renovated State Office Complex will be the home to roughly 900 Agency of Human Services employees, in addition to staff of the Department of Public Safety already on the campus, bringing the anticipated capacity for the reconstructed complex to approximately 1200 employees. It will include a new office building, renovated historic core offices, a new central plant for heating and cooling, new site infrastructure with restructured parking to prevent future flood damage, and landscaping.
The historic nature of the Complex will be preserved, with the 13 original historic core buildings undergoing a renovation. The new Central Plant will include two wood fired bio-mass boilers (with oil or gas back-up boilers) for hot water heating, electric chilled water production for cooling, two electrical generators for emergency and standby power, and maintenance offices and workshops needed for the care of the facility.
All of the improvements to the State Office Complex will be made in a manner to reduce flood risk. Nineteen flood-prone buildings will be removed, new and renovated facilities and the new central plant will be elevated, and all occupied areas of new and renovated construction will be above the 500-year flood level.
Occupancy by Agency of Human Services employees at the Complex is anticipated in the second half of 2015.