Family finally able to move on after Irene
by Jack Deming
Aug 22, 2013 | 2594 views | 0 0 comments | 114 114 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILMINGTON- Over the past two years, weeds have overtaken the lawn, the front porch has begun to fall into the river below, and a chair sits awkwardly in a tree at 3 Shafter Street. Where Beaver Brook meets the Deerfield River, the Brissette family’s house was left an uninhabitable reminder of Tropical Storm Irene’s wrath, which left a family with nothing to do but move on from the place they called home for 15 years.

A piece of good news finally came on Friday as the town became owners of the property as part of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which helps towns buy out properties left 50% or more destroyed by the storm, and reimburses homeowners for the value of their homes before the flood. After two years of waiting, the Brissettes will receive $145,000 for their property, a sum that will finally allow them to look for a new place to call home.

The Brissettes’ house was moved an inch off its foundation during the flood after a dumpster barreled into its foundation and the water rose above the first floor windows. The house’s plumbing and electrical wiring were destroyed as well as the walls and the floors. The Brissettes decided against rebuilding and opted for the FEMA buyout program, which would make the town the owner of the property, and reimburse them for their home.

The news is bittersweet for the family of Tim and Sherrie Brissette however. Since the flood, life has not been easy. Besides losing the home they loved and the irreplaceable items and memories inside, the bills would increase after making the transition from paying a mortgage to paying rent. According to Tim and Sherry’s daughter, Elizabeth Brissette, it has been hard to live comfortably after such a big loss. “I lived in that house from the age of 3 to18 and I still find it hard to come up with the concept that no one can ever go back there to my childhood home. It was especially difficult for my parents making the transition from homeowners to renters.”

Following asbestos abatement and demolition, town manager Scott Murphy said the town will most likely turn the space into a park, an idea that has been floated by both the Wilmington Works design committee and the Conway School for Architecture and Design. “It shows a sign of progress,” said Murphy. “After two years it becomes an eyesore and it’s also a danger to the public. Instead of putting a fence around the property we will be able to take down the building and make a nice local park out of it.”

Elizabeth Brissette said that her family has lived in the area for generations and doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. The Brissettes are currently looking for a new house, one with a yard.

“It’s definitely a relief for them to have the money,” said Elizabeth. “The family is looking at buying a new house in Wilmington and it will be really great for my mom and dad to have a yard again to work on their own ideas.

“It’s exciting and sad all at once, the whole situation.”

The town is currently working on securing funds for the only other property that took advantage of the HMGP, the former site of Stone Puddles on Route 100, owned by Frank Sprague. According to Murphy, the Brissette house was one of the first HMGP property buyouts to close in the state, while commercial deals such as Sprague’s may take even longer.

The town will split the cost of the buyout 25%-75% with FEMA, while the town’s portion is covered by grants.
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