- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) - Federal officials have rejected a Vermont town’s request for a reimbursement of millions of dollars spent repairing damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irene four years ago.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Thursday that it would not accept Bennington’s bid to be fully compensated for the $3.9 million it borrowed to repair the Roaring Branch of the Walloomsac River after the August 2011 storm. Workers removed sediment from the branch to prevent further flooding, fortified the banks of the river with stones and removed debris from beneath bridges.

FEMA had initially ruled that the town was not eligible for any compensation but agreed in May 2013 to pay $1.55 million after local and state officials challenged the decision. The town appealed, and the agency then agreed on an additional $800,000 in August 2014.

This was Bennington’s second appeal, and the town’s last chance to get more funds from FEMA.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders issued a joint statement Thursday and said that it’s “disappointing” that FEMA won’t reimburse the town.

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s office said that the repairs were necessary to avoid further damage to infrastructure.

In its analysis of Bennington’s appeal, FEMA found that the work went beyond the minimal actions necessary to address an immediate threat.

Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the town will have to finance the $1.34 million shortfall. Hurd said there might be other funding options through the state or federal government.

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