Report from Montpelier

By Joan Lenes

We have begun a new legislative session as well as a new biennium and the start of my fourth term serving as your Representative.  I appreciate your support!

Shap Smith, the Speaker of the House, reappointed me to the House Corrections and Institutions Committee.  All of the members from this committee except one were assigned to return. I believe this gives us the opportunity to get right into the work that lies ahead of us. It is an ideal situation that allows us to continue where we left off in May 2012 without a steep learning curve.  I continue to serve as the Committee Clerk as well as being the ranking member, the third in charge after the Chair and Vice Chair.

One area of responsibility for this committee is state-owned buildings including the entire Waterbury complex as well as the state hospital. As we know, both were destroyed due to Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. In these opening days of the Session, we have already heard from the Commissioner of Buildings and General Services, Michael Obuchowski. We have been updated on the progress the State has made with the plans on the rebuilding of the state hospital and the work of renovating and rebuilding the Waterbury Complex. We will not have financial updates until after the Governor’s budget is presented and we receive the Capital Budget.

On Tuesday, Jan. 9, I was lucky enough to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new State Hospital being built in Berlin. Although he was not as specific or detailed as I would like, the governor said he was pleased with the information he has received from our insurance carriers and FEMA on the amount of reimbursement and payment we should receive. Everyone in this administration has worked diligently to leave no stone unturned looking for funds to assist us in all areas of Irene recovery.

A relatively small project funded from Capital Bill dollars, which has had a huge impact on visitors to the State House, as well as all who work there, is the restoration of all House committee rooms. Over three summers, the rooms have been restored to their 1920s look while maximizing every square foot to functional and efficient use. I thought I would share some interesting facts about this work done by our Buildings and General Services (BGS) department. Only Vermont workers were hired as subcontractors. Over 100 pieces of Vermont Correctional Industries furniture were installed utilizing and developing the working skills of over 50 inmates. Each piece of furniture was custom-designed to BGS specifications. Lumber measuring 24,000 board feet was used for the new ceiling rafter system and wall infill. If these boards were placed end to end, you would be able to walk the planks from the State House all the way to Montpelier City Hall!  Covering the ceilings and wall infills took 100 sheets of drywall. Sixty gallons of paint were used.  That amount would be enough to cover the State House dome twice.  I invite you to come and take a look, tour the State House, and watch your government in action!

Please join Rep. Kate Webb and me each Tuesday morning at Bruegger’s Bagel from 7:30-8:30 am.  You can also reach me at or 999-9363.

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