Shumlin is scheduled to speak at a public gathering at Memorial Hall at noon on Wednesday, August 28, followed by a tour of the downtown areas damaged in the flood. The public is encouraged to attend.
The Vermont Preservation Trust is also sponsoring a tasting of Dot’s Restaurant’s award-winning chili, which the governor has proclaimed “the best chili in America.”
Shumlin’s Irene tour will coincide with the release of the state’s report on Irene recovery efforts. According to Shumlin’s chief of staff Sue Allen, the report will look at the damage, assess how much has been accomplished, and acknowledge the work that still needs to be done. “There are still people in need,” Allen noted.
But from the larger perspective, Allen said Vermont’s recovery has been remarkable, particularly when compared to other recent disasters. “The recovery has been pretty astounding. There were 500 miles of state roads severely damaged or destroyed. Now they’re all repaired, and repaired better so we’re more resilient. More than 100 bridges have been repaired. The big picture is good, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some people on the ground with damaged homes still trying to find suitable housing or businesses still trying to recover.”
On Wednesday, Allen said, Shumlin will also talk about the contrast between Wilmington in the aftermath of the flood, and the Wilmington that’s under recovery today. Wilmington was one of the first towns Shumlin visited after the flood, flying into the partially-isolated town by helicopter. “He’ll talk about what he saw that first day, and what we see today,” Allen said. “There has been a tremendous improvement. But more is still needed – none of the towns are whole, with all of their businesses back and people in their homes.”
After speaking at Memorial Hall, Allen said Shumlin plans to enjoy a taste of chili, tour renovations underway at Dot’s Restaurant, and chat with business owners on his walk through the village. “There are folks still trying to recover,” Allen said, “and he wants to talk to as many as possible.”
Dot’s Restaurant, which has served as a symbol of both the destruction of Irene and the town’s recovery, and a favorite of locals, visitors, and politicos including several of Vermont’s governors, may be open soon. Owners John and Patty Reagan say they plan to be open in time for this year’s “leaf peeping” season. Patty Reagan said most of the interior construction is finishing up now, and kitchen equipment will be installed soon. “We’ve got about a million little things left to do, but we’re getting close,” she said. “I don’t know exactly how far out we are, but not too far out.”
Reagan said the new layout and an increase in the building’s footprint offer more room in the restaurant, although there won’t be any additional seating for now. The new layout offers seating over the river. In the original building, the kitchen was over the river, and seating was only in the main building. The kitchen will be at the back of the building. But despite the changes, Reagan said they’ve tried to keep the building similar to the original restaurant, with a counter in the same place as it was before the flood, and beadboard on the walls. Reagan said it has met with the approval of at least one of the restaurant’s regulars, Cy Lavoy. “He said some of it was the same and some of it was different, and it’s going to be okay. And if he says it’s okay, then it’s okay.”