By John Mathews
Special To The Standard
“We have no intention of closing this park,” said Richard Williams, executive director of the Vermont Housing Authority at a special meeting Tuesday night of residents of the Riverside Mobile Home Park.
And later, State Rep. Allison Clarkson added, “Our objective is to get everybody back in the park.”
That’s just what the residents of the park, devastated by Tropical Storm Irene, wanted to hear.
For the residents, answers were a long time coming, although some official responses were tentative. Generally, the official consensus seemed to be that in the next two weeks decisions and action will be taken to fix the park’s infrastructure, repair damaged homes and get people back in them.
Much needs to be done in the next few weeks before winter arrives, according to Williams and Dan McElhinney, a FEMA coordinator:
Engineers must figure where to place some homes on higher ground. Replacement homes, or new homes, must be brought in for people who lost theirs. Nine homes are described as “uninhabitable,” but 24 homes are currently occupied.
The mound above the septic system was badly damaged and tanks inside need to be replaced.
Meanwhile, the sewer system is pumped out every few days.
Many homes will need to be elevated at least a foot above ground and anchored. “ We don’t want another situation where homes bang around and people get hurt,” said Williams.
One of the few laughs of anotherwise serious and business-like meeting at the Thompson Center for Seniors & Community came when Penny Davis, the town constable, who lost her home and three cars said, “I want to be the highest, because I want to be the queen.”
Another problem facing many homeowners is wet insulation under the units that must be replaced. Homes also must be reset on their foundations. Dale Snader of Dale’s Homes, which has sold and serviced many of the homes in the park, said he has crews ready to work, but just needs the approval of state authorities to begin work.
McElhinney urged people to register with FEMA so agency inspectors can assess damage to the homes and residents can receive temporary housing assistance. Some costs of repairing and re-insulating homes may be covered by FEMA grants.
He also asked resident to fill out forms that can enable the state authority to qualify for some $400,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank to cover infrastructure repairs.
After hearing the official responses, Al Pristaw, a resident, seemed the sum up the feelings of many, saying the officials “ are acting in good faith; let’s give them a chance.”
This article first appeared in the September 15th print edition of the Vermont Standard.