Hartford’s recovery got off to a fast start thanks to a tremendous outpouring of volunteers and skilled organizers who effectively handed out assignments in the first days and weeks after Irene.
“But recovery is an 18 month- to two-year-long process,” says Lori Hirshfield, director of the Department of Planning and Development Services. “We are at high risk now more so than before, the majority of the 140 residences and businesses that were most affected have moved on in some capacity, but there are so many nuances to recovery.”
The town sustained between $4 million and $6 million in damages, 52 roads were damaged, as well as damage to water and wastewater systems. The loss of the Quechee covered bridge was $2 million, which is now under construction and required to be operational by December. Its size has helped somewhat to ease recovery; the percentage of impact is not as high as in the smaller communities, says Hirshfield. The town had bonds and was able to cover a lot of damage on its own.
FEMA’s contributions so far have been around $420,000, says Public Works Director Rich Menge.
Many homes were damaged in Hartford, and some have been rebuilt. Others are waiting to see whether they qualify for the Hazard Mitigation Grants or buyouts, but a huge number of people were eliminated as, according to FEMA, most were not in a flood hazard area.
Properties in West Hartford have been rebuilt thanks to organizations like Upper Valley Strong, COVER and Dream Builders.
Neighbor helping neighbor has been the big story in Hartford, says Hirshfield.
“Everybody coming together as a community and becoming closer, that and green has helped a lot in the long-term recovery process,” she says, referring to the color of spring and summer in Vermont.