Less state workers in Waterbury could help reduce project by $19 million

In the governor’s press conference at the Waterbury state office complex last week, the administration showed at least one response the state could use if it doesn’t receive expected funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

If needed, $19 million could be saved.

On Wednesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin said he’ll proceed with the new state hospital rather than wait for FEMA, but he noted the administration doesn’t want to proceed with demolishing buildings at the state office complex until the state knows that doing so won’t jeopardize Vermont’s eligibility for FEMA disaster aid.

The new state office complex is expected to cost $125 million. Additional psychiatric beds across the state and the new state hospital in Berlin amount to about $45 million in total.

The state has railed against FEMA for suggesting several redevelopment costs would likely be ineligible for aid. State officials said in July agency representatives initially indicated the costs would be eligible for federal aid.

The state is expecting $80 million to $90 million in FEMA aid for combined projects.

The governor also pointed out how if the number of office workers in Waterbury is dropped from more than 900 to 806, the state could save some $20 million. Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding wrote in an email to the Vermont Press Bureau that the option, which includes reducing the number of state workers from about 950 to 800 along with various other savings, would reduce the cost of the preferred plan for the new state office complex from $125 million to $106 million.

About 1,500 workers were based at the Waterbury complex, and 1,200 worked there regularly.

Architecture firm Freeman French Freeman identified various proposals in March. The cheapest option was $108 million to build a new state office complex and buy land, possibly in Berlin. Other options included demolishing the Labor Department building off Memorial Drive in Montpelier and rebuilding there for $119 million or demolishing and reusing portions of the Waterbury site for $134 million. A full reuse of the Waterbury site with demolition of several buildings by the Winooski River was $143 million.

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