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Flood victim Mary Lahti says she thinks the claim process put forth by the City of Thunder Bay will meet her needs.
But Lahti admitted Saturday she was among the lucky ones.
“We have a dugout, and so we didn’t get sewage, so we were a lot better off than most people, than most of our neighbours,” Lahti said, departing the East End’s Slovak Legion, after attending the second public meeting held by the city, her application for assistance and loss to recoup costs from the May 28 disaster in hand.
Lahti had already filled out her yellow application for advance form and handed it in on Saturday, the first day the forms were distributed to those affected by the flood and sewage treatment plant failure.
“In our case, if we can get the money to re-insulate – because we can’t afford it, I’m on disability – that would be great. Before Christmas, before winter comes, that would be wonderful.”
Residents are faced with a July 9 deadline to hand in the advance application to quickly collect $1,000 of their full claim, under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
The longer blue form must be submitted no later than Oct. 31. Officials said claimants should expect to answer plenty of questions and proof when filing.
“There’s quite a bit of documentation required to support your claim, to support your loss,” said city clerk John Hannam.
Lahti is confident she’ll be able to navigate her way through the process, though she hasn’t taken a long look at the blue form, which will be processed by the Thunder Bay Disaster Relief Committee for approval, under the auspices of the ODRAP.
While Lahti considers herself one of the lucky ones, Georgette Swerdlyk isn’t quite as happy, after sitting through about a half an hour of explanations from city officials, who implored attendees not to turn the open mic portion of the event into a gripe session.
The Atlantic Avenue resident’s home was hit hard in the flooding and sewage back-up, but because she has insurance, and the right insurance, she put, not all of her costs will be covered.
Her insurance company will only pay a portion of the value of most of the items in her home, unless she’s replacing them.
But with irreplaceable antiques on her claims list, that’s just not possible.
Swedlyk would like to see the city cough up some of the missing cash.
“I’m basically out of luck on anything that I have,” she said. “I’m caught in the middle. I’ve lost out on everything that I had and I can’t apply for anything that they’re offering.
“I’d like to see the city cover the loss that I’m out. My insurance company will pay up to a certain insurance value, but I’m out all the rest of that money. I had to itemize (my stuff) and I don’t even know what was down there. I can’t remember half the stuff that was down there. And I’m the one who has lost.”
TBDRC chairman Wayne Fletcher reiterated the committee can only get two-for-one matching provincial funds on money they’ve collected though fundraising efforts and stressed that Saturday’s meeting was about helping guide victims through the application process.
Once again the city declined to discuss a $320-million class-action lawsuit filed against them earlier this week, stating legal reason.
However, city manager Tim Commisso said while they have some idea of what happened, on Monday he’ll ask council to approve hiring an outside, independent team to determine just what went wrong on May 28, when three-and-a-half inches of rain fell in a two-hour period, more than 200 millimetres over a five-day period.
“Yes, it’s going to cost a little bit more to do it, but it will be a public report and that’s the best way to do it,” Commisso told the crowd of 500 or more who gathered looking for answers and guidance.
Commisso said the city will take a closer look at the hardest hit areas, as closely as interviewing individual homeowners, to create a master plan to avoid disasters like this in the future.
Commisso did not rule out the possibility of a back-flow preservation subsidy program, sump pump subsidies and residential assessments. A water-rate rebate will be made available for affected households.
The city simply doesn’t have all the answers at this time, Commisso said.
“The reality of it is there are the types of things municipalities are finding out they have to put in place,” he said.
Commisso is comfortable with Thunder Bay’s efforts to date.
“We’ve done everything we can and I can stand up here and look anyone in the eye and say that.”
Most of the questions asked of city officials were from people seeking assistance and not knowing where to turn, though a number pointed fingers and questioned why the city wasn’t prepared when the flooding struck. Dozens got up and left the meeting after hearing who was eligible and who wasn't.
A meeting has been scheduled for Monday at the Slovak Legion with lawyer Chris Hacio to discuss the potential class-action lawsuit, rights and obligations of victims, dos and don'ts and the disaster relief application and hwo the Thunder Bay Legal Association is volunteering to help with the process. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.
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