The Federal Emergency Management Agency determined on Tuesday that the Vermont State Hospital and other state property damaged by Tropical Storm Irene was not destroyed. The decision runs counter to the Shumlin administration’s claims for the past 15 months that the hospital and parts of the Waterbury State Office Complex were destroyed by flooding.
The determination – which comes roughly one month after the agency rejected the state’s appeal for culvert reimbursements – means the state will not receive the 90 percent public assistance match it sought to rebuild the new state psychiatric hospital in Berlin and other facilities on the Waterbury site.
Well, I hate to say “I told you so.” No, actually, I love to say “I told you so.” Me, November 15:
The Shumlin administration may be part of the problem. There are indications that the state is trying to fudge the rules in order to get more money.
First, there’s the question of whether the Vermont State Hospital was really a total loss. After the flood, there were many who believed that VSH could be refurbished — at least as a temporary hospital, and perhaps as a permanent one. But Governor Shumlin was adamant that the state would never return to VSH.
According to Digger, FEMA has yet to determine what its actual reimbursement will be. But it clearly won’t be as much as Governor Shumlin had hoped. And it seems clear that he deserves a substantial share of the blame for this mess. He refused to consider a return to VSH. He pushed the rules, hoping to maximize FEMA dollars. And, just as the agency rejected Vermont’s request for money to build better highway culverts, it has now done the same for the state hospital.
The administration could appeal FEMA’s decision, but success seems unlikely. Failure means an additional burden on an already tight budget — or cutbacks in Shumlin’s grand scheme to reinvent the mental health care system. Either way, bad news.