Ambitious Waterbury Recovery Projects Seek Funding

05/04/12 7:34AM By Steve Zind
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VPR/Steve Zind
Waterbury residents talk to Gaye Symington of High Meadows Fund about their long term recovery plans.

Waterbury is one of two Vermont communities that FEMA has selected to assist in developing a long term recovery plan following Tropical Storm Irene.  

FEMA help doesn't come with any funding though.  

So the community is now looking for backers for a number of ambitious, long term recovery projects.

Since November, Waterbury residents have been meeting to decide what projects are most important to their community's recovery.  

They include a new municipal complex, an arts center, affordable housing, expanded recreational opportunities and energy efficiency ideas that would make Waterbury what one participant called the greenest community in the state. 

On Thursday a group of volunteers made their pitch to the agencies and foundations that could help them make the projects a reality. 

"This is a sales pitch," says Rebecca Ellis of the Waterbury Select Board. "It's also a learning opportunity. Our project champions are just regular people from the community and I think that most of the representative here from the federal agencies, state agencies and private foundations understand that and want to help us become more competitive."

Irene flooded 1,500 state workers out of Waterbury and they won't be returning for three years. It's had the effect of forcing some businesses to close. Others may not survive.

Waterbury Municipal Manager Bill Shepeluk says one theme that's emerged from the planning discussions is expanding the business base so the community isn't so dependent on a single employer.

According to Shepeluk, "We have been very lucky that we've had the state here, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Ben and Jerry's; all three big businesses. But we need to things that will help the small businesses grow into what in Vermont we consider medium sized businesses."

FEMA has also been working with Wilmington on that town's long term recovery plan. 

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