MONTPELIER – Under a proposal from Gov. Peter Shumlin, Barre will get 170 state workers, Waterbury will ideally be made whole again, and Washington County will benefit from a net gain of state employees.
During a press briefing with reporters before Shumlin's budget address, administration officials laid out the governor's vision for solving one of the most vexing issues that has cropped up as a result of Tropical Storm Irene: replacing the flooded out state office complex in Waterbury that previously housed 1,500 workers.
Shumlin's plan calls for moving about 350 Agency of Natural Resources employees from Waterbury to the National Life building in Montpelier; moving 170 Department of Education workers from three separate locations to downtown Barre; and an attempt to bring Agency of Human Resources employees from Chittenden County to Waterbury. Under the administration's ideal scenario, Waterbury would end up with more than 1,000 Agency of Human Services employees.
The outcome of the shuffling of state workers could have major economic impacts, positive or negative, for the towns that lose or gain state workers.
Waterbury officials have been seeking certainty since shortly after the flood that the 1,500 displaced state workers – and the economic benefits they bring with them – would return to the central Vermont town.
Shumlin's plan won't give them that certainty, because he still wants to vet any plan to go back to Waterbury and it could be too expensive.
“Our hope is we can deal with the flood protection and modernization issues in an affordable fashion, but we're not going to jump ahead,” Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said.
State officials still plan to view an alternate scenario for a different site for Agency of Human Services workers at a central Vermont site not at the office complex in Waterbury, Spaulding said.
“We will also be doing a scenario in central Vermont so taxpayers, the Legislature and the governor can look at what is the cost of doing to that in Waterbruy compared to doing it somewhere else,” Spaulding said.
– Thatcher Moats