Municipalities STILL Waiting For Ice Storm Assistance

TOMevent-9595Its now been over a year since Milton and other surrounding municipalities dealt with the most incredible ice storm of a life time.  Lives were put on hold and hundreds of thousands of dollars damage done.  There are some areas of the province which still show the effects of Ice Storm 2013.

At that time, town resources were stretched to the limit.  Milton Hydro staff as well as many others were working around the clock to restore power to affected areas.  Most of the residential parts of Milton were back up and running rather quickly.  However, our rural area was left in darkness and cold for several days.

It was at that time there was a stampede of provincial representatives, including our Premier, who pledged support and assured municipalities they would receive the financial support they needed.  That was 2013 … mere weeks before 2014.

As we get closer to New Years Eve for 2015…nothing has happened.  With the exception of one municipality, no other town or city has received the assistance it was promised.  The clock is ticking on the deadline for filing paperwork.  December 31st is the deadline and according to the Milton Canadian Champion article and our Milton staff, we will be getting those applications in.  But what happens after that?

At our first council meeting of this term, we received a report from staff on a number of budget items and the projection of a deficit for the Town of Milton in 2014.  In that report it mentions the lack of financial support from the province for the ice storm costs.  Total costs from the ice storm for the Town of Milton are estimated at $2 million and any support promised by the province would be helpful in improving our financial position in this fiscal year as well as the next one.

In a few weeks, Milton Town Council will be reviewing the 2015 budget and we will be making decisions based on our current position as well as the outlook for 2015. It would be good if we had this information before making those decisions.  Here is an article from The Milton Canadian Champion and Rachel Williams with more details.

Town of Milton seeking ice storm compensation as application deadline approaches

By Rachael Williams

December 21 marked the one-year anniversary of last winter’s vicious ice storm and Milton is still waiting for compensation from the Province.

Trees were toppled, thick ice damaged hydro wires and streets were inaccessible as more than 20 cm of freezing rain and snow dumped on Southern Ontario around this time last year. The Town of Milton incurred more than $2 million in damages and to date, hasn’t received any funding from the Ice Storm Assistance Program to assist with the clean-up.

“So often governments are first in line to the podium to say they are going to help but when it comes to the details it’s another story,” Councillor Mike Cluett told the Champion.

The $2 million includes damage to municipally-owned equipment, equipment rental costs, clearing and removal of debris and wreckage, overtime for employees, emergency communication measures, the repair and restoration of parks, roads and infrastructure and operating costs for the Milton Sports Centre to operate as an evacuation and warming centre.

The reason for the delay, according to Linda Leeds, the Town’s director of corporate services and treasurer, is that the application process is “extremely onerous.”

Leeds said the Town needed to supply complete documentation to the Province, including all source documents substantiating any costs incurred. This includes log sheets, time sheets and individual pay cheques to show that employees were paid for their work. The information then needs to be cross-referenced, put into a certain type of file format (PDF), encrypted because the data is confidential and sent away to the Province.

Staff have already dedicated 325 hours compiling and completing the application, Leeds said.

The provincial government hired a consulting team, Landlink Consulting Ltd., to train municipalities on how to fill out the applications — a process that just took place in November. This alone cost $2.8 million.

“There is nothing wrong with being accountable, but when you hire a consultant just to have all the municipalities in Southern Ontario jump through hoops, I question the mentality of that,” said Mayor Gord Krantz.

The deadline for submissions is December 31.  

“Staff are actively making sure we meet the deadline. The Province is getting some of the money from the federal government so a lot of these requirements are necessary in order to meet federal auditing standards,” said Leeds.

The Ice Storm Assistance Program requires the Province to cover municipal costs and then apply to Ottawa to receive compensation, according to the office of Ted McMeekin, minister of municipal affairs and housing.

The Province has allocated $190 million to the Ice Storm Assistance Program.

“It has not been clearly communicated how the applications will be evaluated, nor do we know how the funds that are available will be distributed so the timing and quantum that the Town may receive in aid is unknown,” said Leeds.

Cluett pointed out that with a deficit forecasted for Milton in 2014, these funds would go a long way in helping the Town’s financial position.

“We can only wait and see if we get anything from the Province,” he said.

Leeds predicts the Town won’t have any answers until well into 2015.

Rachael Williams can be reached at rwilliams@miltoncanadianchampion.com and on Twitter @MiltonReports.

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