Lt. Governor Phil Scott says the state is committed to bringing employees back to the Office Complex in Waterbury.
But Scott says plans for a new, energy efficient office building for the Waterbury complex may have to be scaled back if the state doesn’t get enough money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A year after tropical storm Irene flooded dozens of buildings in the Waterbury office complex, the Shumlin Administration is still negotiating with FEMA over how much money the state will receive to repair these buildings.
The state thought it would be reimbursed for buildings that were "damaged" but FEMA later changed this definition to structures that were "destroyed."
The state wants to demolish at least 20 of the buildings that were flooded and build a new office building with stronger flood controls.
But Lt. Governor Phil Scott says this approach might have to be scaled back if the state doesn’t receive sufficient funding from FEMA.
"This could be a game changer in terms of building a new facility in Waterbury," said Scott. "We may have to do something different but I think we all remain committed to moving state employees back into Waterbury in some capacity and I look at maybe half the employees that were there before moving back in."
The state also wants to move the heating plant in the Waterbury complex to a new location where it would be much less prone to flooding but Scott says FEMA might insist that the heating facility be rebuilt on its original location.
"I don’t think they’re looking at it they way it should be looked at and that’s part of our negotiation and hopefully common sense will prevail and we’ll be able to do something that’s more long term."
If the state doesn’t get enough funding from FEMA, Scott says lawmakers could always consider issuing bonds for part of the cost of the new project.
"I am optimistic that we will get something out of FEMA that will allow us to move forward in some fashion," said Scott. "I think that we’re resourceful. I think again we will live within our means and if we can’t build what we wanted we’ll build something that will make sense."
The state’s problems with FEMA began when a key Agency official suddenly left the state this spring. Now the state has just received word that two other top FEMA officials are both leaving in the very near future.
There are concerns that this development could make a complicated negotiation process even more difficult for the state.