Thursday, October 20, 2011


News to Know October 20

News to Know October 20, 2011

(Berlin residents may contact me at to be added to my email send list.)

Moonlight Madness is today (10/20) in Montpelier with discounts at many stores. Note that at Woodbury Mtn Toys the savings extend through Saturday
TED Talks – Ideas worth spreading. TED stands for “Technology Entertainment Design”. These are talks given at conferences and can be found at or go to and search on “TED Talks”. Lots of topics to pick from, there is bound to be several of interest. Some are just a few minutes long but others may be 15 – 20 minutes. I haven’t had time to watch many recently but some of my favorites are Sixth Sense Technology – it’s a mini-projector coupled with a camera and a cellphone – quite the demo on what is possible with technology ; Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce (have you wondered why we used to get by with just a couple brands and now the choices go on and on?) and I just watched; “Facebook and Google / Secret Revealed” talking about information being filtered / edited Let me know what your favorites are!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22ND is the Big moving sale. 1727 Crosstown Road, Berlin. Tools, antiques, air hockey table, kitchen items, couches, holiday decorations, books, twin beds, bookshelf, kids games, etc. Stuff for kids and adults. 20 year collection from the attic to the basement and it all has to go to make it easier on the folks helping the family move just a few miles away! 9 a.m. start time. Rain or shine. No early birds. Indoor/outdoor sale. A pickers dream come true.
A Dad's Exercise Night at Berlin Elementary school has been started by Craig Frazier. It will run every other Thursday from 7:30pm to 9:15pm. A different sport will be picked for each night (hoop, hockey, volleyball, indoor soccer, wiffle ball). There will be a sign up list at the school for any interested dads. The next Dad’s Exercise Night is on Thursday, October 27th.***

The deadline for FEMA Individual Assistance is now November 15, 2011. The initial deadline was Oct. 31. With cold weather approaching the deadline has been extended to allow more Vermonters – many of whom have been distracted with storm cleanup – to seek federal assistance. Individual homeowners, renters, businesses, or others who suffered losses as a result of flooding at the end of August are eligible for assistance to repair their homes or to recover other losses. Even if damage is minor, or if you are unsure whether damage will be covered by federal grants, individuals should apply as soon as possible, the Governor said. To register for Individual Assistance disaster assistance, call 800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with a speech disability or hearing loss who use a TTY can call 800-462-7585 directly, or 800-621-3362, if using 711 or Video Relay Service. Registration can also be done online anytime at or through web-enabled mobile phone devices or smartphones at
The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) remains open in Waterbury at the Fire Station. Monday – Saturday 9am - 5:30pm (note change in hours)
FREE ITEMS - if you’re looking for items or have items to offer – this website for free items has been around for years. Look for Washington County, Vermont.

Times Argus classifieds has a section “Vermont Recovery Resource” of free items and services to folks affected by the flooding.

At the October 17th Selectboard meeting it was decided to lift the Emergency
Health Ordinance at Westons Mobile Home Park.

FEELING STRESSED? Starting over Strong (SOS) is a short-term effort designed to find healthy ways to deal with the stress from the flood – Call 855-sos-vt00 (855-767-8800). To find out more about taking care of your mental and emotional health, go to and choose “After the Flood”.
Vermont Clean Up Day is October 22nd and several projects will be worked on in Berlin. The Town of Berlin will also continue Clean Up on Saturday, Oct 29th. If you need assistance or can offer assistance (physical labor along with equipment such as chainsaws including person to run it, backhoe/bulldozer, trucks for hauling away debris such as trees, etc. Please be in touch by return email or to . Another way you may be able to help is that there is one family who needs assistance with quite a bit of laundry that still needs to be done from the flooding.

If you’re participating in Clean Up Day 10/22, after you’ve worked up an appetite volunteering, stop by the Old Labor Hall from 2:30 to 5 for some free BBQ. Democratic members of the House of Representatives will be grilling up burgers and hot dogs for the volunteers. The food has been generously provided courtesy of the Vermont NEA, VSEA, Professional Firefighters and AFT.
Also remember the Music Fest over at ReStore Saturday 10/22 1pm – 8pm Adults $10 / kids free (802) 477-7800 (details in 10/16 posting)

From Shaun Gilpin at the CVOEO Mobile Home Project
Regarding the $1500 mobile home removal program:
Due to successful fundraising efforts, this removal can be provided to residents of mobile home parks at NO COST
We are going to need to ensure that homeowners have done a few things before homes can be removed from the park. Homeowners are going to have to:
- Be finished with their FEMA process (or decide that they don’t want to wait any longer)
- Ensure that there are no mortgages or other liens on the home
- Go to the Town Clerk and get documentation that all property taxes have been paid or abated
We are also going to need homeowners to provide:
- Proof of Identification (photo copy of driver’s license or some such document)
- A signed release form (which we will provide)
If you haven’t already, please ensure that there is nothing owed on the home (or request a release from the lender) and check with the Town clerk to ensure that no property taxes are owed. Once we finalize the release form and checklist, I will send those to you and we can set up a date to have your home removed.
There will be two opportunities on Monday, October 24th to meet with folks regarding removal of homes – at 2pm and again at 5pm. They are hoping to see the homes be torn down starting on Thursday.

On pm the Berlin School will be open to distribute food and other donated items to Saturday, October 22, 2011 from 9:00 am till 12:00 anyone in Berlin affected by the recent flooding. During our High Water Ho-Down Flood Relief fund raiser we collected many items for donation. Some of these include; bed linens, clothing, toiletries, small appliances and televisions. Each family will also receive a grocery bag of food. Please stop by the Berlin Elementary School on Saturday, October 22, from 9-12 to pick up anything that you may need. If you are not able to make it due to transportation, please call Jessica Heinz at 223-2796 ext. 118 at the school for assistance. Thank you so much and hope to see you on 10/22.

Thursday, October 20 – Clothing Donation Collection at the Berlin Congregational Church 8am – 6pm. Good, clean clothing needed for victims of the flood. Call to volunteer 229-4042 FREE Distribution on Saturday, October 22nd 8am – 2pm***
Multi-Family Rental Repair Program: The State of Vermont, in partnership with FEMA, is looking for multi-family properties uninhabitable before Tropical Storm Irene or not damaged by the flood. They prefer properties with a minimum of four units that, with some improvements, could accommodate Vermonters needing housing since Tropical Storm Irene. This unique opportunity will allow FEMA to fund rehabilitation activities for eligible properties that will, in turn, be made available to those displaced by the storm. For more information, please contact Lou Narciso at or by phone at 571-449-1821

Many redemption centers are participating in a bottle drive to support the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund set up to provide flood-relief grants to Vermont Farmers. Clean returnable bottles and cans can be brought in to M&M Beverage Center or another participating center.

FREE & Open to ALL who were affected by the flooding. There is still plenty of gently used winter clothing, outerwear, shoes and household items at the Flood Distribution Center on Rt 100 in Waterbury Center across from Sunoco. Stop by to replace items lost in the flood. Hours: Mondays and Wednesday 9-noon and 5:30-7:30pm; Saturdays 9-noon. The center also has a message board to connect people with larger items to donated with those who need furniture, appliances, etc. Information changes often there.
Flood diaries: After the bucket brigades, Irene losses sink in:

Weston’s park moves closer to full reopening
By David Delcore
Staff Writer - Published: October 19, 2011
BERLIN — Weston’s Mobile Home Park is inching ever closer to reopening.

Barely 24 hours after persuading the Select Board to lift the emergency health order issued immediately after Tropical Storm Irene, Weston’s owner, Ellery Packard, was scheduled to meet with another town board Tuesday night to discuss local flood hazard regulations.

Town Administrator Jeff Schulz said Packard’s hearing before the Development Review Board probably wouldn’t result in an immediate decision. However, he said it should provide the basis for the board to swiftly issue findings and the permit Packard needs to reopen a substantial section of his 83-lot park. The park has been uninhabited since it was evacuated in the devastating August floodwaters of Irene.

Town officials promised Packard an expedited review that will presumably establish the ground rules for replacing or repairing nearly 70 mobile homes “substantially damaged” by Irene flooding along the Route 12 corridor in Berlin.

Select Board members briefly discussed that prospect at a Monday night meeting. They unanimously agreed that an emergency health order, which has barred overnight access to 70 mobile homes at Weston’s since Aug. 31, was no longer needed.

Although board members were told Packard is still removing oil-tainted soil from the property, they agreed sufficient progress had been made to justify lifting the order.

“It’s either safe or it isn’t,” board member Brad Towne said, adding that he believed the health order had served its purpose.

The board concluded as much after hearing from Packard; his environmental consultant, Brad Wheeler; and Schulz, who has worked with both men and monitors the park’s post-Irene status.

Schulz told the board that the park’s water system, disabled when a wall of water wiped out its pump station, was back on line. The water had been tested and cleared by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“It’s my opinion, based on the documentation, that the water issue for that park has been addressed,” Schulz said.

Although Schulz was unable to tell the board that contaminated soils have been removed from the site, he said he was comfortable enough with the plan outlined by Packard to recommend that the board lift the health order.

Packard told board members that with Wheeler’s help, he started excavating contaminated soil earlier in the day and had cleared 12 of the 70 affected lots before coming to the 7 p.m. meeting. In all, Packard said, he excavated 56 cubic yards of oil-tainted soil that was immediately trucked off site.

Packard said he was hoping to complete the excavation work the end of this week or early next week, though Wheeler, of Wheeler Environmental Services LLC, said that timeline may be optimistic.

According to Wheeler, some “hot spots” were cleared with a couple of passes with an excavator, while others required digging down 10 feet.

“It’s pretty unpredictable right now,” he said. “It’s entirely possible it could be two weeks’ worth of work.”

However, Wheeler said that in his professional opinion nothing about the levels of contamination or the ongoing excavation work posed a hazard to the park’s residents.

“I don’t think there should be any real concern with people occupying the site,” he said.

Packard assured the board he would not cut corners when it came to excavated contaminated soils atop the underground aquifer that feeds the park’s drinking water supply.

“I have a lot of money invested in this,” he said. “We will not stop until it’s completed.”

Packard said he had a vested interest in removing as much of the contaminated soil as possible.

“The more (contaminants) I get off my property, the less I’m going to own for the rest of my life,” he said of the soil contaminated when floodwaters toppled dozens of fuel tanks, spilling the contents onto the saturated ground.

The board’s decision eliminates a key obstacle to reopening the vast majority of the 83-lot park and should allow at least a couple of its tenants to immediately reoccupy their flood-damaged mobile homes. According to Schulz, those homes did not sustain flood damage that exceeded 50 percent of their value and, as a result, did not need to be brought into compliance with the town’s flood hazard regulations.

The same cannot be said of most of the 70 lots subject to the health order and part of a permit application that was scheduled to be considered by the local review board Tuesday night. Those lots remain off-limits until Packard obtains an umbrella permit for the park and zoning permits are issued to those renting individual lots.

Fees for obtaining the latter permits are a growing source of consternation, according to Schulz, who said several of the park’s tenants complained about paying the town an estimated $80 to $100 fee for a permit to flood-proof their mobile homes.

“Folks have been a little bit upset that they would be subject to the fee,” Schulz said.

After discussing the matter with the town’s attorney, Rob Halpert, Schulz said the board could opt to waive the fees. Due to concern about the potential precedent that might be set by such a decision, the board tabled action on the fee issue Monday night.

Affordable housing crunch, FEMA rules hurt flood victims
by Andrew Nemethy | October 18, 2011
WATERBURY — When it comes to housing damaged by tropical storm Irene, the numbers tell quite a story.
But so do the mind-numbing rules and regulations, obstacles and misunderstandings, and twists and turns that displaced Vermonters face as they try to cope with restoring homes or finding new housing.
All of that and much more was spelled out to key housing lawmakers in the Vermont House during a marathon session held Monday in Waterbury’s Congregational Church. And to punctuate what they were hearing, Rep. Tom Stevens, a member of the panel, took the General, Housing and Military Affairs committee on lunch and post-meeting tours to see with their own eyes the devastating impact Irene had on his town.
At Patterson’s mobile home park, opened in 1957, 19 units were destroyed and 33 people left homeless when the Winooski River backed up and circled in to flood the park, Ed Patterson told lawmakers. Owner of the park with his two brothers and mother Ramona, he wondered where many of his tenants were going to live now, noting one woman only paid $175 for rent, a bargain she was unlike to find anywhere else.
All day long the panel heard about the complexities and challenges Vermont agencies faces in rebuilding housing stock after Irene, and about the mismatch between what many of those who lost homes can pay and what replacement housing and rentals actually cost, or how rental housing is scarce in areas with the highest need.
“We’re all in this together and trying to push every lever” to find solutions, said Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Perhaps no one put a starker face on the situation than Jennifer Hollar, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic, Housing & Community Development, who came armed with the latest tally of Irene’s toll.
She called the numbers she presented “staggering” and the impact on Vermonters’ “heartbreaking.”
Her Irene list included:
• 225 communities impacted, 45 severely
• More than 1,300 residential properties damaged, many severely, primarily in Washington, Windsor, Windham and Rutland Counties .
• 433 mobile homes damaged or destroyed in 15 mobile home parks
• 1,200 homeowners permanently or temporarily displaced, according to the latest FEMA figures
• 986 homes recorded by FEMA that received more than $10,000 in damage.
She said approximately 70 percent of the damage done by Irene was inflicted on private homes, and 40 percent of those were lived in or owned by low-income Vermonters.
In what Hollar called “a very good development,” she revealed that plans to use FEMA trailers for temporary housing had been dropped and they were no longer being considered because they were deemed inappropriate in Vermont’s winter climate.
She said a plan to purchase mobile homes as a replacement is under consideration. She also said a housing task force with 25 members is working to identify how to address all the problems created or exacerbated by Irene.
A FEMA official told the panel that more than 6,400 Vermonters had registered with FEMA and the number of new registrations for damage assistance were slowing down. The deadline to register is Oct. 31 and he said a big push is planned for outreach to alert all homeowners that time is running short.
“We really want folks, even if they don’t think they need to register, to register,” said Hollar.
While a parade of speakers including FEMA representatives praised extensive cooperation and organization across numerous agencies, there wasn’t much sugarcoating of the difficulties that face the state and homeowners.
Mobile homeowners are caught in a Catch-22. They must not remove their damaged trailers if they hope to get FEMA funds. However many mobile home owners face being charged rental for destroyed homes they are not living in. The state is pushing a program to assist mobile home owners who want to dispose of their property, said Shaun Gilpin, a mobile home advocate with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.
But if they go ahead and remove the mobile homes, they put any FEMA money in jeopardy, he said.
“Some people are definitely going to lose out,” he said. “But frankly, at this point, eight weeks out, there’s a lot of people tired of waiting.”
Another wrinkle is the way FEMA and the Small Business Administration work in tandem, according to Carl Sherrill of the SBA. He noted that many homeowners don’t bother to apply for an SBA low-interest loan, not realizing that sometimes rejection by SBA can lead to more funds from FEMA.
Sherrill said the SBA can provide triple the funds that FEMA does but many don’t take advantage for various reasons. SBA loans have a very low interest rate of 2.5 percent and can even be rolled into existing home mortgages, he said.
Sherrill said the SBA has disbursed $13 million in loans compared to $17 million to $18 million in FEMA grants, but only 13 percent to 15 percent of those who register with FEMA fill out a “15 minute” SBA application.
Arthur Hamlin, who oversees mobile homes for the Department of Economic, Housing & Community Development, said mobile home owners aren’t the only ones in crisis. Park owners are facing their own disaster, since they are not eligible for FEMA loans and many have lost all their rental income. He cited two parks that need loans of $400,000 and $600,000 to rebuild. The cost of reconstruction will have an impact on future rents and affordable housing availability for low-income Vermonters.
Also, because of many parks are often located close to a river, they face thorny flood zone issues. Most were built before 1970 and were grandfathered in before zoning and floodplain regulations that now may make rebuilding difficult, he said.
Gilpin said the future of mobile home parks “is a huge issue for a number of reasons.”
Seelig echoed that concern, noting that rebuilding the infrastructure or building a mobile home park from scratch is going to be financially tough.
“The numbers just don’t work very well,” he said.
In one encouraging note, Gilpin said the state is progressing on a plan to remove damaged mobile homes for $1,500 each or less, using economies of scale, which perhaps may bring the cost down to zero. Average costs to remove a damaged mobile home are $4,000-8,000 but the average FEMA grant was $5,000-$10,000, so removal would eat up most of the payment, at a time when some renters are still liable for a mortgages or rent, he said.
Sarah Carpenter, director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, said homeowners face “a very painful process” with finding refinancing mortgages for repairs, especially if they want to buy mobile homes, where there is little financing available.
Rep. Helen Head, D-S. Burlington, the chairwoman of the Housing Committee, said the daylong hearing was intended to get a “snapshot” of the issues as lawmakers prepare for the upcoming session. She said the goal was for legislators to get a clearer sense of the major public policy issues facing the state before the Legislature convenes

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