MIDDLEBURY (Addison Independent) – September 18, 2008- Officials in more than a half-dozen Addison County towns breathed a collective sigh of relief this week after learning that extensive road and bridge damage caused by a powerful storm on Aug. 6 will qualify for federal disaster aid.

Federal authorities confirmed the presidential declaration of disaster on Sept. 12. That means that repairs to flood-ravaged bridges and roads will qualify for up to 75 percent federal reimbursement - great news to the locally affected towns of Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Bridport, Leicester, Goshen, Hancock and Brandon.

Federal, state and local emergency management officials were scheduled to meet at Middlebury’s Ilsley Library on Thursday morning to hold a briefing “designed to help local officials understand federal disaster eligibility requirements and the reimbursement process for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, restoration and replacement of public facilities,” according to a memo issued by Vermont Emergency Management.

“We are hopeful that the FEMA meeting will provide us with an opportunity to respond to the transportation needs of Lower Plains,” Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Lee Sease stated in a recent e-mail to Lower Plains Road residents. “I know this is an inconvenience for many of you and we appreciate your patience.” Meanwhile, town officials had not been waiting for the federal declaration to begin making repairs. Crews have been hard at work on Routes 125 and 53, as well as other roads that experienced big washouts on Aug. 6.

“We always advise (communities) not to hold off on repairs,” said Norman Portalupi, technical services engineer for the operations division of the Vermont Agency of Transportation. “We ask them to document costs and to take pictures.”