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Former Irene Recovery Officer Reflects On Storm's State Impact

Weston's mobile home park in Berlin was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.
AP/Toby Talbot
Weston's mobile home park in Berlin was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.
Weston's mobile home park in Berlin was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

This week, on the second anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene VPR is completing work on ourMapping the Money Project.  Our online interactive maps and charts show how much money was spent on Irene recovery and how and where it was spent. 

By far, the lion’s share of the relief money went to rebuilt state and town roads and bridges.

"We pushed the envelope," Minter says.

Additionally millions of federal dollars has been devoted to helping individuals and families. 

Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter was Irene Recovery Officer when much of the work was going on. 

This week, VPR’s Steve Zind sat down with Minter to talk about the numbers and the impact they’ve had on the state.

Minter says there were many discussions with  FEMA over the extent to which it would pay for work to damaged infrastructure, including upgrading it to withstand future flooding.  In the end, Minter says, the state got what it wanted. 

“We came out with bridges, culverts and roads that were stronger in meeting our state standards, which are a higher standard,” she says.  “We did appeal several of [FEMA’s] decisions and after several rounds of appeal actually were very successful.”

When it comes to assisting individuals and families in Irene recovery, Minter acknowledges there are still Vermonters who are rebuilding from the storm and those who did not receive the help they hoped for. 

She says some people bumped up against the limits of FEMA funding and the rules governing how money could be spent, but she says the state was aggressive in pursuing federal dollars available to help families.

“We pushed the envelope,” Minter says.  Where FEMA couldn’t help, Minter says many state and local organizations stepped in to provide assistance.

Minter says she’s pleased with how far the state has come in rebuilding after Irene and preparing for future disasters.  When she looks back at her time as Irene Recovery Officer, she says, “I wondered if we would ever get to this place. I know there are still people who have outstanding needs, but we really have come so far. “

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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