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Go ahead

City council has told administration to go ahead with its plan to try and flood-proof the city in the future.
City councillors applaud the work of the Red Cross and Salvation Army Monday night. (Jamie Smith,

City council has told administration to go ahead with its plan to try and flood-proof the city in the future.

The report will see an independent engineering assessment of the Atlantic Avenue sewage treatment plant, a neighbourhood master drainage study, outline assistance programs for people and businesses to flood proof buildings and report a preliminary impact on next year’s budget.

City manager Tim Commisso and infrastructure operations manager Darrell Matson told councillors Monday night that municipalities everywhere are reexamining infrastructure under provincial standards as weather patterns change. Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds asked if flooding like the city saw last month, when more than 100 millimetres of rain hit the city in two hours, would have happened elsewhere.

“That (amount of rain) is significant for any Ontario community that uses the standards we have available to us,” Matson said. “This is bigger than just us.”

Commisso said discussions will take place on an intergovernmental level.

“This is very complex, the whole interrelationship between our systems and weather systems,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

As for the neighborhood drainage study, residents from Northwood came forward saying that pocket flooding and water have been issues in the area for years. Valerie Cameron said it’s time that her neighbourhood had the maximum standards for sewers rather than minimum. Specifically, they want the city to find ways to redirect sewage flows, overflows and have more man power staffing places like the sewage plant when heavy rain falls.

“Many residents have done as much as possible at their own expense to prevent flooding,” Cameron said. “We should not live in fear of every rainfall.”

The residents say they want a working plan with deadlines and dates.

Matson said that the drainage study would reprioritize those areas of the city that need infrastructure upgraded through its asset management plan. Under the plan, whenever a road is resurfaces, the sewer underneath it is upgraded to a separate older combined sewer systems. It currently spends $1 million to remove combined sewers and another $2.4 million on sewer rehabilitation every year. 

The city has also spent more than $100 million from 2003 to 2010 through the pollution prevention control plan, which includes more than $80 million in updates to the sewage treatment plant. Matson said spending more money wouldn’t necessarily mean more work would get done because of construction capacity in the city.

“We certainly need to ramp it up but a lump sum of money in a short period of time would not be the way to go,” he said.

Council added that administration should look into a loan program for people affected by the flood since money from the disaster relief fund might not be available until October. Coun. Iain Angus, who introduced the amendment, said those people need money sooner in order to rebuild. Some councillors worried that any loan program would affect decisions made by the disaster relief committee.

“We should not be interfering in that,” Coun. Rebecca Johnson said.

But city clerk John Hannam said exploring a loan program would not have anything to do with the committee.

“It’s entirely out of their authority to do anything remotely like that,” Hannam said.

Negotiations continue on transferring a portion of the more than $600,000 raised by the Red Cross and Salvation Army to the disaster relief fund.

Administration will report back to council next month.

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