By Brett Yates
The Chittenden Select Board took the first step on Aug. 22 toward realizing a long-debated plan to address flooding near Lefferts Pond by raising two sections of Wildcat Road.
“I’ve been talking about it for four years now,” Selectman Andrew Quint noted.
An estimate by Enman Kesselring Consulting Engineers priced the job at $1.3 million, but Chittenden officials have identified a potential Hazard Mitigation Grant, whereby the Vermont Department of Public Safety would distribute FEMA dollars to cover 90% of the cost.
“When you get a 90% grant match, it’s unheard of,” Chittenden Emergency Management Director Jan Sotirakis said.
Board members expressed concern, however, that even the 10% local share would represent too high a cost for the town.
“It feels like, if we do something like this, it pushes back our ability to do other projects for a year or so,” Quint admitted. “I know certain people think it’s ridiculous because almost no one lives out there. That said, that road is used, and it’s used with frequency.”
In past discussions, local residents and nearby landowners have voiced skepticism regarding the necessity of the project. But if the road ever washed out without a grant in place, the full cost of its restoration would fall upon the town.
Even with the grant, however, the town might have to take out a short-term loan to pay for the project while waiting for reimbursement from FEMA.
“We’re kind of damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” Selectman Bob Case observed.
“Well, we’re more damned if we don’t,” Quint replied. ‘In the end, the board agreed with Quint and instructed Sotirakis to apply for the grant. She estimated that the town would hear back next summer.
“You can always turn back any grant you’re awarded,” Sotirakis reminded the board.