Hazard Mitigation Committee Seeks Town Funds For Scoping Study

Rep. Martha Feltus appears before the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, to discuss grant funding to assist flood mitigation efforts. (Photo by Paul Hayes)

LYNDON — The Hazard Mitigation Committee is one step away from securing a $70,000 grant to evaluate high-priority flood fixes.

But first, the town must agree to a 25 percent match (up to $18,750) required by FEMA.

Rep. Marty Feltus, the committee chair, asked the Select Board on Monday to commit the matching funds and advance badly-needed flood relief projects.

She said the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, the non-profit filing the grant application on the town’s behalf, will not proceed without that guarantee. The application deadline is Dec. 17.

“In order to put in the application, NVDA needs to have confidence the town is indeed behind the idea [They need to have] a warm and fuzzy feeling that the town — one way or another — will be able to come up with the [$18,750] if we were to receive the grant,” she said.

The Select Board’s answer will come next week.

Due to uncertainty whether the Town of Lyndon or the Village of Lyndonville had oversight authority, the Select Board and Feltus agreed to meet with the Village Board of Trustees at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday to hash out the matter.

Justin Smith, the municipal administrator, said both jurisdictions were impacted by flooding issues at the Route 5/114/122 intersection.

“I think it will be partly [the village’s] project to sign off on, if not all,” he said.

The dormant Hazard Mitigation Committee reassembled two months ago to tackle the town’s long-standing flood issues.

It reviewed the flood mitigation projects recommended in the committee’s 2016 Hazard Mitigation Plan and selected two for a scoping study, funded through a FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Community (BRIC) grant.

Those two projects would minimize the water level at the Route 5/114/122 intersection. One would redesign, or replace, dry culverts located downriver (south) of the intersection and the other would reconnect the river with flood plain storage upriver (north) of the intersection.

A scoping study would determine if the projects are viable, worthwhile and effective. It would include hydraulic studies, cost estimates, taxpayer impacts, funding options, impact analysis, cost-benefit analysis, long-term maintenance requirements and more.

“If all that information were available then we could make a rational decision: Is this something worth pursuing or not?” Feltus said. “The whole next step is figuring out how to pursue it.”

Because communities require an active Hazard Mitigation Plan to qualify for BRIC funding, and Lyndon’s expired last month, the town will partner with regional planning agency NVDA, who can apply for the grant on the town’s behalf.

During Monday’s discussion, Select Board members wanted to know how the grant would work, in the event the town’s match was OK’d and the grant application was approved. They were particularly concerned with the financial impact.

Select Board Chair Christian Thompson asked if the town match of $18,750 could be spread over two fiscal years, which he said would be “more palatable to the taxpayer.”

Smith wondered if the town would be required to front the entire $75,000 BRIC grant sum, and be reimbursed by FEMA at a later date.

In response to Thompson, Feltus said there was an 18-month grant window, but it was unclear if the project would stretch across fiscal years. In response to Smith, she promised to consult NVDA and report back.

Feltus also suggested that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds could be used for the grant match.

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