Waterbury Looks Toward Long-Term Recovery

10/04/11 7:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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AP/Toby Talbot
Cooper Provencher helps clean up at his father's business in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in Waterbury.
(Host) Over the past five weeks, hundreds of volunteers have helped fuel Waterbury's short-term flood recovery effort.

But as VPR's Bob Kinzel reports, local officials say they now need to develop a different model to help guide the town's long term recovery.

(Kinzel) The Waterbury Town office is now located in a large classroom at the Thatcher Brook elementary school - right down the hall from the school's gym.

Bill Shepeluk is the town manager. He says he had to move because the old office on South Main Street was heavily damaged.

(Shepeluk) "We had five inches of water up on the first floor. We had a basement that was fully submerged in water. Our oil tank overturned and oil just permeated through the entire structure."

(Kinzel) Shepeluk says he's been overwhelmed by the volunteer spirit in Waterbury. But he says the time has come to work on a different long term recovery plan.

That's why a nonprofit group known as "Revitalizing Waterbury" was asked to expand its traditional business focus to include the needs of residents in a new venture that backers hope will be staffed with three paid positions.

(Shepeluk) "This effort is targeted at getting residential properties back and be able to be reoccupied, get people back and families back to this community where they then can support the business community that Revitalizing Waterbury has worked with and has had a focus on for over 20 years now."

(Kinzel) The staff positions will include an overall project manager, a construction manager and a caseworker to help residents navigate the state's social service network.

(Shepeluk) "Everybody acknowledges that as big a physical challenge this is for people - their homes are destroyed, they might not have a job to go to - there's a huge human cost that needs to be addressed as well."

(Kinzel) Rebecca Ellis is the chairperson of the Waterbury select board. She says creating a new non profit group makes a lot of sense:

(Ellis) "We at the municipal level felt a nonprofit could really better provide these services to individuals. They could do a better job for fundraising. They'd have more flexibility in terms of hiring. They'd have more flexibility in incorporating donated labor into the non profit structure."

(Kinzel) What's the mood in Waterbury five weeks after tropical storm Irene?

(Ellis) "I think people are surprised from the outside to see how far along we are, that people are all mucked out and a lot of people have gone ahead to get their own  contractors and start rebuilding. They've put in electrical. They've put in insulation. They're putting up dry wall. So for the most part, people are doing pretty well. So it's a pretty positive mood from that standpoint."

(Kinzel) "Rebuilding Waterbury" hopes to hire at least three staff people by the end of the month.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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