Home News and Features 36 FEMA Trailers Going in on Country Club Road

36 FEMA Trailers Going in on Country Club Road

The parking lot next to the former Elks Club building. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Work has started. Montpelier is getting 36 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers and the needed infrastructure on the city-owned Country Club Road property, likely before snow flies. Additionally (but separately), the former Elks Club building on the same road will be used by Good Samaritan Haven as a night winter shelter for people who are homeless for non-flood-related reasons. And while those projects were met with apparent unanimous support, questions were raised about infrastructure, permitting, security, and parking, among other matters during the Sept. 13 city council meeting.

But still, the Montpelier City Council unanimously approved authorizing City Manager William Fraser to expedite FEMA’s immediate efforts to install the necessary roads, water, sewer, and electricity to support 36 trailers for 18 to 24 months. Those temporary structures are earmarked for displaced Vermonters who lost their homes to flood damage on July 10–11. Most of the people who will be living in the trailers are from a mobile home park in Berlin because the existing homes there were condemned due to water damage, according to Doug Farnham, Vermont’s chief recovery officer appointed by Gov. Phil Scott to deal with flood recovery. 

Farnham said over 200 people statewide “had significant enough damage where they cannot occupy homes — over half in Washington County.” Of that group, at least 50 have signed up for the direct housing program, which means they cannot find any other place to live in Vermont because of the overall housing shortage. Therefore, Farnham said he is thankful Montpelier is working with FEMA to get the units in place.

 “We are very concerned people won’t have a place to live before winter comes, and even at a best clip, this would be going in just in time for winter,” Farnham said. 

Fraser noted in his weekly report that, with the approval he received on Sept. 13, “we will move full steam ahead with making an agreement for this project.”

After the initial 18 to 24 months, local or state authorities will have to take over managing the housing project, according to Fraser. Until then, FEMA will install roads, upgrade water lines, and put in electricity to service the units. It was agreed all around that work would have to be done quickly, and it looks like FEMA is already getting the ball rolling. The Bridge observed two men checking out a red fire hydrant halfway up Country Club Road on Saturday, Sept. 16. The men acknowledged being FEMA employees and that they were looking at the water system, but objected to having their photos taken because they were scared of “getting in trouble.” The men were later seen photographing Country Club Road from the bottom of the hill. 

Water and Sewer

Fraser said with FEMA doing the infrastructure work, it will save Montpelier from the future expense when the city begins implementing housing development on the property. The water line from U.S. Route 2 would have to be upsized to a 12-inch pipe to accommodate future housing plans, but FEMA only needs an 8-inch pipe for the trailers. However, Fraser is negotiating to have them install the 12-inch pipe with the city footing the extra $50,000 cost. Otherwise, the city would have to install larger pipes at a cost between $500,000 to $550,000, Fraser said. The money for the water pipe would come from the water fund, Fraser said, adding that “the water fund has not been hit as hard as the general fund, and even in hard times, you have to make good decisions looking forward.” The existing sewer line has enough capacity for the FEMA housing, although it would have to be increased for a larger housing development. 


Councilor Tim Heney raised a concern about the project getting snagged by the permitting process, asking, “Any dispensation to allow this to happen quickly, so they don’t have to go through this permit gauntlet?” Heney described a delay in permitting he experienced and expressed hope Montpelier will be as quick with local rebuilding permits as they are with FEMA permits.

Fraser said because Vermont is still in a state of emergency the government can waive permit requirements, especially since the project is directly related to providing safety to a population of displaced households. “I do think we would work with FEMA and the government and remove any barriers as we can reasonably remove,” Fraser said, adding that the situation “merits a sense of urgency.” FEMA has also agreed to follow the city’s rules as far as following city-imposed codes and rules regarding development. Fraser said when the topic of timing came up in a conversation between him and FEMA, they responded “the only answer we got is, ‘this is what we do … we put these things in. We do it fast and bring in the resources to get it done.’” 

Community and economic development director Josh Jerome affirmed he would help FEMA get through the development process.


Some people expressed concern about parking to accommodate the new residents as well as those using the fields for recreation. Councilor Cary Brown noted that if there are 36 households, there could be 72 cars. Where would they park? Fraser said each unit would have parking alongside the home.

Benefits for the Flood-stricken

Mayor Jack McCollough shared his thoughts after the bulk of the discussion. “I think this is great and I don’t see how we could not do this. People know there is a lot of housing loss in Barre. This is going to meet the need for central Vermont.”

Elks Club Good Samaritan Haven Shelter

Rick DeAngelis, co-executive director of Good Samaritan Haven, spoke up about the winter shelter going in the former Elks Club building in November. The arrangement was posted in the Montpelier City Manager’s report of Sept. 1. “First of all, we are really pleased to be leasing that space. I think it is going to meet our needs really well. It’s clean, well lighted, attractive,” DeAngelis said. There is a small kitchenette for shelter guests to use. DeAngelis expressed gratitude to the city staff, who, in the middle of everything going on with the flood, helped to facilitate the shelter agreement. “We really appreciate that a lot,” he said.

DeAngelis went on to express support for the FEMA trailers by saying it is going to help greatly for people who lost their homes in the flood. This will prevent them from becoming homeless and needing shelter from Good Sam. Also, “everything I’ve heard about this plan gives me comfort, in that it is going to be well-managed. And I was really pleased to hear there is going to be security on site, so I’m just looking forward to being up there and so we can exist peacefully,” he said.

Other Matters

The city council also discussed future use of the country club site, recreation, extending the waiving of permit fees for people rebuilding downtown, managing the FEMA trailers after FEMA pulls out, transportation for the shelter, hunting, and tax abatement before adjourning.

FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Association have provided $54.7 million to the state of Vermont following the flooding on July 10–11, according to the fema.gov website. Vermonters still have until Oct. 12 to apply for assistance.