Flood-Ravaged Town Cheers Big Step in Recovery

Waterbury, Vermont, broke ground Monday on a new library and municipal complex, more than three and a half years after losing its old offices to flash floodwaters brought by Tropical Storm Irene.

"A few years ago, it looked as though this town was going to float away," Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, said, recalling the waist-high flooding on August 28, 2011. "By remembering where we came from, it's going to help us to get to where we want to go."

Irene was Vermont's worst-ever natural disaster, causing more than a half-billion dollars in damage statewide. Waterbury ranked as one of the hardest-hit communities, with homes gutted and workplaces destroyed.

While the busy town of about 5,100 bounced back strong in many ways, its municipal building has been sitting basically useless since 2011. The future of that property, owned by the village, still needs to be sorted out, said municipal manager Bill Shepeluk.

"We're looking forward to having a home of our own again," Shepeluk told New England Cable News. "All the hard work has been done; now we just have to construct the building and move in."

For the past several years, municipal government has been operating out of temporary space above the Waterbury Fire Department.

The new complex will house Waterbury’s library and a space for community groups, in addition to the municipal offices.

The new site is just up Main Street from the old town offices, and will serve as a "gateway" to downtown Waterbury for people entering from the side of town closest to Interstate 89, town officials at the groundbreaking said Monday.

State Rep. Rebecca Ellis, D-Waterbury, said it was not easy to get to this point. First, the community had to find a site, then develop plans, then take their plan to voters.

Taxpayers had to approve their nearly $3-million share of the approximately $5 million project. Grants from a host of sources are fleshing out the rest of the cost of the project. Donations are still being sought to support the new library.

As the old saying goes, "good things come to those who wait." And after so much waiting post-Irene, Waterbury is certainly ready for its good thing.

"We're going to have a great building for another 100 years; for generations to come," Ellis said, smiling.

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