Jamaica Homeowner Looks For Solutions

10/12/11 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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VPR/ Susan Keese
Brett Morrison stands on the deck of what used to be his house in Jamaica. Morrison also lost the land underneath his house.

(Host) Vermonters in storm damaged areas are working to get roads passable and homes livable by winter.

But what if you've got nothing left to fix? On Water Street in Jamaica, Tropical Storm Irene took out four houses and the land beneath them.

VPR's Susan Keese talked with the owner of one of them.

(chairs scraping across deck)

(Keese) Brett Morrison pulls up a couple of plastic chairs on the deck that used to be behind his house. Now the deck sits at the edge of a steep cliff.

(Morrison) "So this was bizarre, to come in and see this cheap plastic furniture right where we'd left it. But it took my whole house."

(Keese) He shakes his head. Beyond his deck, eight feet down from where his living room used to be, the town has built a temporary road, a by-pass for a ruined highway bridge upstream.

Beyond the new road is a swathe of boulders and debris and a new, hastily dug channel, where Ball Mountain Brook once ran peacefully.

(Morrison) "My property line used to go a little beyond where the edge of the brook is. My house is to the other side of the road."

(Keese) But is it still his property? Morrison says he's paying a mortgage.

He might have enough land in his backyard to build something. But he can't even get to it with a vehicle now.

(Morrison) "So even what's here, I can't move on, I can't fix -the town doesn't know whether that temporary road, will become permanent  or will it be a few years from now before they have enough money stashed away to rebuild it?"

(Keese) Morrison says the town of Jamaica is trying to plan. But it's still got bridges out and mountain roads it's trying to open, so that people whose houses were not destroyed can get to them.

He understands why officials would focus first on the things they can accomplish before winter.

He and his three kids have a place to stay.  Morrison shares custody with his ex-wife.

A family from New York, acting on Governor Shumlin's suggestion, offered the use of their second home on Stratton Mountain, through November.

(Morrison) "Having that offered, and offered when it was, the second Friday, was just huge. Yeah. So they'll start skiing and I'll find somewhere else to live. Then my goal will be to find someplace where I can be consistently with the kids til the end of the school year."

(Keese) Morrison says he's had a lot of help. He says even the FEMA people have been wonderful, after some frustration getting through. At one point an automated phone voice told him that his application was turned down.

But that was a mistake. He recently received the agency's maximum compensation. He says the $30,200 won't go far.

Morrison didn't expect anything from his home insurance. He'd let his flood policy lapse.

But his personal items were insured for $200 thousand dollars.

(Morrison) "I was hoping that at least, you know when you get a car broken into, it's home owners that helps you replace the items that are taken."

Unfortunately, his coverage excludes ‘Anything concurrent with a flood.'

Like others in town, Morrison knows where many of those items landed. He leads the way past Jamaica State Park, and points to an island piled high with debris.

(Morrison) "That's where most of our houses are, on that island - and getting here the first Monday was sort of like the first set of belly punches where you realize. It's just destroyed."

(Keese) He points to a piece of his kitchen floor, his brand new stove, shredded to the size of a microwave, tangled together with a chair he recognizes as one of his neighbors.

It's all woven together, he says.

Morrison is a Vermont native who's lived in Jamaica for nine years. He says he'd like to stay and help the town recover.

On the way back to the road, he spies a flash of metallic green sticking out of the silt that covers everything.

(Morrison) "It's one of my son's remote control trucks. His uncle gave it to him."

A fragment of his son's remote control car - a gift from his uncle. 

(Morrison) "We'll give it a proper burial."

(Keese) He picks it up and keeps walking.

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese in Jamaica.


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