With a background of Harley motorcycles, Rich Svec, Cavendish town manager, spoke about the reason for the Route 131 bridge (Whitesville bridge) dedication held yesterday.
Tropical storm Irene inflicted significant damage to Vermont, particularly to Cavendish, which not only destroyed the town's infrastructure, but damaged nearly all of the roads and bridges. The much photographed chasm that formed on Route 131 required extensive manpower to repair. The VT National Guard, as well as Guard from other states, worked from sun up to sun down for two months to reopen the road. With its completion, a reopening ceremony was planned but was cancelled when one of the town's local youth, Spencer Huntley, was killed in a car accident.
The dedication of the Whitesville Bridge serves several purposes. It not only marks another milestone in the town's recovery from Irene, but it provided an opportunity to thank the many who have helped over the last three years to restore the town. Svec not only expressed his appreciation to VTrans, but also to Cold River LLC who was responsible for completing the project a week ahead of the projected completion date.
Two representatives from VTRans, Christine Higgins and Tammy Ellis, were on hand and described the terrible condition of the bridge after Irene. They also thanked the people of Cavendish for allowing the closing, which not only allowed the project to be fast tracked and completed in less than 30 days, but also helped to save money, which could be used for other towns.
State Representative Mark Huntley, and father of Spencer, also spoke thanking the people of Cavendish for their patience and his appreciation to all the workers who helped to restore the town after Irene.
On behalf of the town, Svec said that he dedicated the bridge to the Guardsmen, both from Vermont and other states and in memory of Sgt. Shawn Stocker, Air National Guard, who died while in service in Cavendish.
Holding the ends of the ribbon being cut were Marji Graff of the Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce and the bridge project foreman from Cold River LLC.
While seldom talked about, this is a good time to note and thank Rich Svec and the various town staff for their countless hours working with FEMA, doing road repair etc. After the 1973 flood, the town had to float a 30 year bond to help with recovery. The damage from the 2011 flood was considerably more-estimates are over $4 million. Thanks to Svec and his team, who were willing to spend countless hours on paperwork, a majority of the repairs were paid for by FEMA and the State. While Cavendish had to borrow money, it has been repaid and we have no debt. With only a few projects remaining, it is anticipated these will be completed by Sept. 2015 when FEMA funding ends.
With the cutting of the ribbon, Svec turned to the Harley riders behind him and said, "start your engines," thus welcoming the HOG (Harley Owners Group) to the Okemo Valley and the start of their three day rally, which is based at Jackson Gore in Ludlow.
It looks like it will be a beautiful weekend, and great riding weather for the HOGs. Please be mindful of them and "share the road."