Wed, Jan 18, 2012 09:06 AM
KILLINGTON-Approximately 60-80 people from Killington and Mendon
attended the Irene Response and Recovery meeting at the Killington
Elementary School, on Jan. 11.
Noelle Mackay commissioner of economic, housing and community
development, who has led such community discussions across the
"Our goal is to support communities as they make the hard decisions
about recovery... Having cross-agency teams is critical as we help
towns identify gaps in capacity and need, as well as trends worth
MacKay began the Killington meeting by summarizing some of the
issues express at other communities meetings, including: the need
for communication protocols if there is no electricity, attending
to people with special needs and the role of ski resorts in
disaster planning. Mackay then asked area residents, town and state
officials at the meeting what worked, what didn't work and what is
needed in the future to aid response and recovery.
The discussion focused mostly on evaluating the response to the
flood, the on-going efforts and the future needs. Mid- and
long-term recovery plans were discussed in more general
The state response was overall, tremendous. Especially the Agency
of Transportation (AOT) getting roads back in shape. Communication
with the state police also worked well. The state set up a command
center in Killington, which gave the residents a link to
communications; when officials heard something was closed, they
could verify it immediately with the state police and the Emergency
Operations Center (EOC.)
Killington had an emergency plan in place and followed it.
Killington quickly set up an operations center/incident command
Volunteer effort was strong in Killington; coordinated with the
media. Volunteers provided both housing and logistical aid. The
volunteer coordinator was Steve Duschane.
There were many resources that could be used immediately to
rebuild, including gravel for the roads. The towns also had good
contractors readily available and a host of volunteers who got to
work quickly repairing what they could.
Killington has about 3,000 structures. Town officials and
volunteers took inventory of the structures quickly and
methodically. Officials say the town now has a more accurate grand
list than before Irene and FEMA was impressed with how accurate the
information they collected was.
The Killington Elementary School was used as a crisis shelter.
There were on-site school staff that helped managed the shelter.
The school has a generator.
Killington also developed a system for people to get medication and
mail: The local pharmacy and post would deliver to the town and the
town would distribute medications and mail out to the residents in
need, with their permissions.
Killington also benefited from their strong business community.
Despite the fact that all businesses took an economic hit, they
came together to coordinate aid. Many took IOU's (no credit card
machine were working) and provided food and/or shelter to workers
and displaced residents. Once the immediate needs past, they also
came together to spread the word that Killington was back in
The short-term financing aid offered by the state Treasurer's
office was also extremely helpful. The Treasurer offered a plan to
defer education payments for the next few months.
What didn't work?
Killington and Mendon communities voiced their concerns that
communication between towns and between entities broke down at some
points through the disaster recovery process. Some communities had
trouble getting a consistent message from the other towns, the
state and/or organizations intending to help. Isolation was a big
issue in the Killington area. 600 tourists were trapped in the
Miscommunications with the Emergency Operations Center about water
drops also became problematic. The towns did not know how much
drinking water would come and when.
It was also difficult to get any direct communication from the
military. They had to do a lot of face-to-face communication to
avoid breaks-downs and misinformation with military personelle.
Rutland's biggest gap in communication was with the military,
Folks also noted their dependence on the electronics, and said they
need to remember that they may not be always work and they must
have a plan to work around this obstacle. Mackay noted that Grafton
used color-coded cards so that they could keep track of where their
equipment was and who was using it. It was an example of a
non-electronic system that worked really well.
Killington also discovered that it was on the border of two AOT
areas, which caused some problems with transportation
Also, because gas stations were not open, gas became a rationed
commodity and you needed to have cash to get any amount of
gasoline. Some folks with generators for their house or ATVs could
not use them once their gas ran out.
There was some hesitation on rebuilding efforts, as folks did not
know if they would be reimbursed for projects already
Caring for pets and livestock also caused issues, as people were
reluctant to leave their homes because they were worried that their
animals needs wouldn't be met.
Additionally, the prevalence of second homes in Killington made it
difficult to know if anyone was living there at the time of the
Hurricane and whether he or she needed help.
There was also concern raised about the amount of negative press
Vermont received. There were suggestions for a positive publicity
Many concerns were voiced about the quality of roads that were
fixed quickly. Questions arose about how to finance lasting repairs
that may be needed in the spring or soon thereafter as well as
projects that have not yet been reimbursed.
Mendon officials expressed their continual need to use "over-width"
vehicles for loads of materials still needed for repairs. They
asked for flexibility from the DMV to allow those over-width
vehicles to move over the road. Joe Flynn responded recommending
officials reach out to the DMV directly. He said there are
permissions that can be granted for such work.
Mendon is also concerned that they could be looking at four bridge
replacements this spring. They have a master service agreement with
an engineering firm to review the best solutions for the four
bridges that need replacement.
Mendon officials were particularly concerned about the continued
threat to the roads as debris has piled upstream. Officials say
they need a plan for having it removed to prevent further damages.
They had damage to 5 miles of the 7-mile road. They had a million
dollar contract for one mile.
FEMA doesn't generally cover the clean-up of "woody" debris under
the public assistance program. The Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) covers this so representatives from the Agency of
Natural Resources (ANR) encouraged them to work with NRCS. In the
past, it has always been up to the landowner and/or town to address
When the debris dislodges, it will head down to Rutland and could
cause massive erosion and further flooding on its way. Mendon has
registered with NRCS.
"This is a critical situation and nothing seems to be happening,"
one Mendon resident said. It is a delicate situation because it is
not in Mendon's "right of way" and it is not our debris.
Looking at the culverts officials are starting to see that some
should be up-graded from a culvert to a bridge. But, they may not
have the financial means to upscale. They asked if there was
government money to back up their desire to up-size some culverts.
This is a challenge that has existed for years.
Putting bigger culverts in won't fix the problem, it just moves the
problem down the line. The solution needs to be
"Is the state or the feds going to come in and re-vamp our whole
system of culverts? If not, then these one-off single culvert
solutions will not help the whole system overall. There needs to be
a more holistic plan for sizing the culverts," said Jim Haff,
from the Killington Selectboard.
Some suggestions included putting levies' in, making ponds with
dams or creating deep wells to put water back into the
The problem stems from the developments of properties, which
removed trees that used to soak up a good portion of the watershed
and prevent flooding. Now there is nothing to stop the water, a
watershed expert said, adding that Act. 110 was passed in 2010 to
help address some of these issues. Two important results of that
Act were the stream alternation/permit program and upstream
development restrictions. He also noted that 96% of culverts in the
U.S. are under-sized.
Part of the future involves celebrating the survival and marking
the significance of this event in some way. There is a group
discussing how to do this. Create a public place that commemorates
the event in some way.
Someone else suggested that we don't call it "disaster planning"
but rather "business continuity planning" to encourage more
engagement from the community in preparing for future emergencies.
"The way to keep people involved is make it relevant to their
businesses," said the resident.
Discussions will be on-going locally and statewide. Visit
vermontstrong.vermont.gov for more information on Community