Vermont gathers information on recovery needs
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | December 12,2011
GRAFTON — How can the state help towns and communities during and after natural disasters? Officials would like to know so they can improve future recovery efforts.
Vermont Community Partnership representatives met with Southern Vermont residents recently to talk about local disaster plans after Tropical Storm Irene. The Vermont Community Partnership includes officials from the Agencies of Commerce and Community Development, Human Services, Natural Resources, and Transportation; regional planning commissions; and community members.
Department of Economic, Housing, and Community Affairs Commissioner Noelle MacKay asked what their major needs were. The responses were varied. Many believed their communities responded adequately but others said there is room for improvement.
Bill Kearns of Grafton emphasized the importance of Class IV roads. They played an important role in reaching people in remote areas and maintenance of these roads needs improvement, he said.
“We need passable Class IV roads to ensure emergency transit,” he said. “At 10:50 a.m., every road was almost flooded. We should send people on all-terrain vehicles to find out what is happening and find out what the roads look like beyond washouts.”
Windham Regional Commissioner Fred Bullock of Rockingham said historical maps should be utilized more.
“We had two areas that were isolated for two days. We got in and out but had we paid attention to ancient road maps and used materials from roads and rivers to make them passable, we would’ve been better off,” Bullock said.
Other individuals emphasized considering global warming in future planning. Eric Stevens of Grafton said extreme weather will result from the phenomenon. He said towns and organizations will need to develop shorter long-term plans and rely on themselves during rebuilding.
“We should follow a 10-year plan rather than a 100-year plan,” Stevens said. “They’re going to come around more often and be more disruptive. In any emergency, we can’t depend on state, regional, national organizations for resources. We’re going to have to figure out how to operate locally.”
Another concern raised was how to manage difficult evacuation plans. Windham Regional Commission Executive Director Chris Campany said there were instances where home evacuations were necessary and homeowners did not comply. Some rescue efforts were compromised and he suggested that state officials should assist town and regional organizations to develop an educational plan on evacuation safety.
“I understand their psychology. But once you get to a certain point of storm, no one will be able to get to you,” he said. “There were several cases of people who would not leave. They’re putting other people’s lives at risk and they have to accept that responsibility. We need to get the word out more that they are being selfish by refusing to leave.”
MacKay said the Vermont Community Partnership team will summarize the feedback from around the state and assess communities’ long-term recovery needs. The state will match their needs with existing services and create a long-term plan that will support local recovery and rebuilding efforts.
The Vermont Community Partnership meeting was held at the Grafton Inn’s Phelps Barn. About 30 people attended the event.
For more information on future Vermont Community Partnership meetings, call Chris Cochran at 828-3047.