By Audrey Richardson
Special To The Standard
As the projects pile up, the Town of Woodstock estimates 2.4 million dollars in expense and over 10,000 hours in labor for Tropical Storm Irene repairs. “We are paying bills everyday,” said Town Manager Phil Swanson.
In order to pay for the damages caused, the town of Woodstock took out a three million dollar line of credit from Lake Sunapee Bank at a .5 percent interest rate. “They wanted to help and they gave us the best rate,” said Swanson about Lake Sunapee Bank. The town does not expect to have to pay the whole amount as everyone waits patiently for FEMA to begin their reimbursement process,” said Swanson.
“We have just started receiving money back on four different projects. We are further ahead than anyone I know,” said Swanson about the $100,000 FEMA has contributed so far.
Swanson said that he expects that FEMA will kick in 75 percent of the total cost to repair the widespread damage and the state will contribute 15 percent, leaving the town with 10 percent. At this point, the town has submitted over 1.3 million dollars in projects to be approved by FEMA. When all is said and done, Swanson hopes that Woodstock will be responsible for less than one million dollars at which point the town would take out a long-term bond and as Swanson said, stretch it out over 20 years. Swanson believes that this would result in a one-cent tax increase for everyone.
The town of Woodstock has over 100 repair projects going on and among the largest, is the Taftsville Bridge. The Bridge was in need of repair before the storm hit and was in line for a state reconstruction grant. Deadline on bidding for the bridge was planned for the day after Irene hit. Now the Bridge is up to $750,000 in repairs and Swanson estimates that the bridge will be going out for construction bids again in March.
“The damage is significant and widespread and we are getting into real expensive stuff like bridges,” said Swanson about the projects at hand. Other difficult areas for the town of Woodstock are roads like Curtis Hollow Road which has had 23 different work sites.
The town opted not to repair the Holt Iron Bridge in West Woodstock and is considering putting the FEMA monies towards a public need such as new gear for the town’s firefighters. At the last selectboard meeting on January 5, Swanson explained that in some cases when a town decides not to do a particular project that qualifies for FEMA coverage they can use it for other qualifying public needs. At this meeting Swanson mentioned that the current fire gear is now 10 years old and at the end of its useful life.
“Everyone has done an amazing job as a community and we are trying to help everyone that can be helped,” said Swanson about post Irene Woodstock. Swanson does not know when or if all the funds he is expecting from FEMA will arrive, but he is hopeful saying he thinks it will “go pretty quick.” Swanson added, “The FEMA guys are stretched pretty thin with the whole state and we have been very pleased with FEMA.” At this time the town of Woodstock is processing 15-20 projects a week and one by one, restoring Woodstock to the place it once was.
By Audrey Richardson