Home News and Features $3.5 Million to Elevate Flooded Buildings Added to House Budget Bill

$3.5 Million to Elevate Flooded Buildings Added to House Budget Bill

Katie Swick stands amid the flood-damaged debris pulled from her Elm Street home on July 14, 2023. Photo by John Lazenby.
At the urgent request of Montpelier and Barre officials and legislators representing those cities, $3.5 million for elevating about 20 flooded homes has been included in the state’s fiscal year 2025 budget approved by the House Friday. The funds had not been included in the proposed budget when the officials and legislators held a press conference about the issue a couple of weeks ago.

The budget still needs to pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Phil Scott, but if the money for flooded homes remains in the budget, Montpelier could receive about $2 million to raise homes above flood level and Barre about $1.5 million, according to Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser.

Some owners of flooded homes in Montpelier have been struggling to get by, uncertain what will happen to them or their homes or what help they might eventually get from FEMA. “We have folks who are living in dangerous situations who cannot wait that long,” Fraser said at the press conference.

Fraser told The Bridge that Montpelier has up to 10 buildings that could take advantage of the elevation funding. “It can cost $500,000 to $600,000 to build a new housing unit today, so preserving these homes by raising the foundation at a cost of up to $200,000 each seems a good investment,” he said.

On March 13, three owners of other flooded properties in Montpelier received City Council approval to seek FEMA buyouts, which means the homes will be demolished and the city will take ownership of their lots, which must remain undeveloped.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed flood relief bills that provide education funding reimbursement for flood-related abatements, that make a commitment for the state to pay the local share of FEMA-funded flood recovery projects, and that provide grants to damaged municipalities.

Without the bill freeing municipalities from paying for the education taxes on properties that receive abatements, cities such as Montpelier and Barre would be on the hook for those costs, in addition to lost municipal taxes. Abatement requests are still coming in, with 19 more Montpelier abatement hearings scheduled in the next two weeks, according to Montpelier City Clerk John Odum.

Fraser said the state’s commitment to pay the local share of flood recovery projects funded by FEMA could save Montpelier at least $1 million over the next two to three years. The local share of FEMA projects can range from 5% to 25%, he said.

This year’s state Budget Adjustment Act also created economic damage grants for flood-damaged municipalities, with Montpelier expected to receive $825,000 from the state. Fraser said the money will help make up for the $1.5 million in cuts to the current year budget that were initiated after the flood. He expects most of the new money to be used for one-time Capital Fund expenditures, but said the matter will be brought before the City Council at its April 17 meeting.