Long after the flooding
IN the wake of stunning flood damage the City of Thunder Bay has addressed two lingering questions — what happened and who gets paid?
Two weeks after the disaster that flooded hundreds of city homes with sewage, the city has established a disaster relief committee. Its first job, said chairman Wayne Fletcher, is to raise money. It’s second will be tougher: adjudicating claims.
It is hoped the passage of time has not lessened the seriousness of the emergency in the minds of residents whose homes were not affected by the sewage treatment plant failure. An initial wave of public donations went to immediate flood relief managed by the Red Cross and Salvation Army. A longer and potentially more expensive task remains to restore damaged homes not covered by insurance.
Donations are needed to help defray these costs and the city has started the fund with $500,000. Residents are encouraged to make donations to the Thunder Bay Disaster Assistance Relief Fund at the Thunder Bay 55 Plus Centre on River Street, the Canada Games Complex, Volunteer Pool, Churchill Pool and the Victoriaville Civic Centre cashiers.
Can additional locations be added where large numbers of citizens are likely to be — banks, supermarkets, liquor and beer stores?
This stage of fundraising is especially useful since the money will be matched by the Ontario government. Please be generous.
Much has been rumoured about how the sewage plant became inundated with water. The design was all wrong, some have said. The city knew something like this could happen and should have helped residents prepare for it, say others. The city should shelve other spending projects and put all available money into the flood relief program is a popular refrain.
It is premature to lay blame until the facts are known. In order to be transparent, administration will recommend to council that an assessment of the plant be conducted by independent engineers instead of city employees. Council will also be asked to consider a master storm drainage study with the initial focus on hardest hit areas in the McKellar and Northwood wards.
Administration was also up-front with a recommendation to determine whether drainage assistance and basement flooding prevention programs in place in other communities might have helped here.
Mayor Keith Hobbs has even allowed that plans for costly projects like the proposed events centre could be put on hold to pay for infrastructure improvements in the face of wildly changing weather patterns. That’s for council to decide, he said, but he’s put a signal out there that council will find hard to ignore.