January 29, 2014

Erin storm clean-up could take until May

As published in The Erin Advocate

It could take months for the Town of Erin to clean up the mess from December’s ice storm, Council learned last week.

“A lot of the branches are frozen into the ground, so it could drag into May before it is all cleaned up,” said Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck.

He said the storm has cost Erin over $75,000 so far, including contractors to supplement staff, and that more costs are expected. At a January 13 meeting asking Ontario to declare Erin a “disaster area”, seeking funding from the  Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program, costs were estimated to run up to $200,000.

“Mother Nature hit us hard over the Christmas holidays, wreaking havoc with roads and power,” said Mayor Lou Maieron.

He offered council’s thanks to Town and Hydro One staff who worked extra hours and sacrificed family time during the storm, saying they had “gone above and beyond their call of duty to ensure the safety and comfort of others”.

Van Wyck said road obstructions have been top priority, and those would not be completely cleared until this week. They are aware of major damage in parks, but have not gotten to them yet.

“This is ten times worse than the April 2013 ice storm,” he said.

Staff will go up and down every road, dealing with tree limbs on public property, or calling in electrical workers when needed.

Credit Valley Conservation is asking area residents not to put tree debris in the Credit River or other watercourses, since it could become part of a jam downstream and increase flood risk, both now and in the spring.

The County Waste Facility at Belwood was planning to accept residents’ brush materials at no charge until January 31, but this has been extended until the end of April.

The mayor said the Town has been looking for a way to help residents deal with branches from private property more locally, but no solution has been determined.

Wellington County is doing an analysis of its storm response, and the Town of Erin will follow up with one of its own.

“We had some difficulties, so let’s be better prepared next time,” said Maieron, noting concerns about getting information out to the public.

Council held three Emergency Meetings during the storm to keep up to date on developments. The Erin Fire Hall was providing water to those who needed it, and warming stations were made available at Centre 2000, the two fire halls and the municipal office, with the help of the Red Cross.

The pump at the Town’s Glendevon Well House burned out, requiring emergency replacement. Erin Radio was off the air for some time due to a problem with their generator.

Information from the Ministry of Natural Resources on how to care for ice-damaged trees is available at www.haltonhills.ca/TreePruning/informationSheet.pdf.