Governor Peter Shumlin says it could take several years for the state to resolve all of its funding disputes with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over damage to the Waterbury Office Complex.
But Shumlin says he’s confident the state will win most of these disagreements and that the timetable for opening a new state office building on the Waterbury campus won’t be delayed.
The Shumlin Administration was hoping to hear from FEMA this week about how much money the state would receive for damage to the state office complex in Waterbury that was caused by tropical storm Irene.
But the Governor says the settlement negotiations with FEMA have become more complex and he doesn’t expect to get a proposal from FEMA for another three to four weeks.
"They’re going to give us good news and bad news. When they give us bad news we’ll appeal those decisions and we’re already been through this with FEMA in a number of circumstances," said Shumlin. " And when we appeal them it’s going to take time and eventually we hope we prevail."
Shumlin has been reviewing how other states have dealt with FEMA after experiencing natural disasters, and he says in some cases, it takes several years to finalize a settlement.
"There’s just no example of working with FEMA in a disaster that has the kind of magnitude that Vermont suffered where you don’t get told at times yes we’ll give you money for this, no we won’t give you money for that."
And when the negotiations are completed, Shumlin is confident that Vermont will get what it wants.
"We are going to get the resources that we need from FEMA to implement the plans that they’ve outlined that’s my goal as governor. I believe we’ll succeed," said Shumlin. "I believe that FEMA will come through."
The state is hoping to build a new energy efficient state office building in Waterbury so that roughly 800 state employees can return to work there.
The goal is to open the new building by the summer of 2015 and Shumlin says that timetable can still be met.
"We’re on a tightrope we understand that. FEMA’s schedule doesn’t always bless us in that process but we’re going to work very closely with them to try to get the outcomes that are positive as quickly as we can so we can get to work."
If the state doesn’t get a sizeable settlement from FEMA, it’s possible that the Administration would scale down the plans for a new office building and try to renovate some of the buildings that suffered flood damage.
But it’s clear that this is an option that the Governor would prefer not to pursue.