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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Irene plus 1- Dentist worked side-by-side with contractors

Dr. Steve Zonies would rather have a tooth pulled than deal with the U.S. Small Business Administration again.

Zonies, owner of Valley Dental in Waitsfield, turned to the federal agency after Tropical Storm Irene destroyed the contents, floor, walls and part of the foundation of his dental practice in Fiddlers Green.

Zonies is no stranger to rebuilding from a flood. His business was also badly damaged during the flood of 1998. This time, he began the SBA loan process and three months later received word that his loan application had been approved. He hired contractors and began the work of rebuilding, including wrapping his building in a waterproof bladder and rebuilding the inside and replacing his equipment.

“Two months after they told me I was approved, I got another letter saying my loan had been canceled. By that time I was several hundred thousand in debt to contractors. I wrote back, explaining all the points they’d raised and providing more paperwork. They asked for more paperwork and more documents and I had to spend another $500 getting those documents, but it still wasn’t enough,” he said.

“Finally, I asked for my paperwork back to start over elsewhere and was told that they’d give me the first 100 pages of documents back for free, but that I’d have to pay $29.95 to get all my paperwork back,” Zonies recalled.

He took his documents to a Vermont bank and had the loan he needed in 10 days. His experience with the SBA notwithstanding, Zonies said he spent every day on the construction site, working with the contractors and comparing notes on how similar their jobs were in terms of physics, forces and surface preparation.

“I loved it. I was on the crew and I was there seven days a week for seven months,” he said.

In all, it took $1.2 million to put the business back together. Zonies had flood insurance and said that was critical to his ability to rebuild. In addition to the rubber bladder, the rebuild features hurricane gaskets on the doors, plus grates inside the doors to let water down into the crawlspace which slopes down to two sump pumps.