NEWS January 29th, 2014

By Shawn Star

City seeks relief from cost of two storms

In a decision that came as no surprise, city council voted unanimously this month in favour of asking the provincial and federal governments for financial assistance to help cover damages caused by the devastating Dec. 21 ice storm.

Council also rolled costs of the damage caused by a major July rain storm into the request, opting to ask for a combined $171 million — $65 million from the summer flooding and $106 million from the ice storm — to be split between the three levels of government.

To qualify for the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program, municipalities are required to adopt a resolution and forward it to the municipal affairs minister within 14 working days of the onset of the disaster.

The special meeting at city hall wrapped up on Jan. 13, the deadline day.

Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, who first floated the idea of the special council meeting to Mayor Rob Ford, said he was happy with the result but felt it could have done without the occasional instances of bickering and grandstanding.“

Toronto residents want their leaders to put aside differences and get the job done, especially when we’re facing crises,” he said.

Ward 26 councillor John Parker acknowledged that “the wheels fell off” on the second day of the two-day meeting. But from a local stance, he said, the motions involving maintaining forestry were particularly helpful.

“In Leaside and Bennington Heights, we have more than the usual complement of trees,” he said. “Under normal circumstances that would be a benefit — we’re delighted with our trees — but in this case there was a bit of a revenge of the trees as they added to the impact of the storm in our neighbourhood.”

For Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc, one of the main realizations to come out of the ice storm was the need to place power lines underground.

“Some streets, like St. Clair, did very well because the hydro wires were put underground when we did the St. Clair streetcar project,” he said. “But the first door north was out.

“So the whole issue (is) of undergrounding: where to do it, when to do it and how much to do.”

Ward 16 councillor Karen Stintz touched on Parker’s statement, saying the North Toronto area got hit worse than others because of the greenery.

“We were hit hard because we have so many mature trees,” she said. “Part of what we need to do in the local community is to replant the trees that have been knocked down and make sure the trees that are there are pruned.”

City hall storm news

Here are a few other things city council decided during the special meeting regarding the ice storm:
[list][*]Integrating Toronto Hydro’s call centre with Toronto’s 3-1-1 system.[*]Developing a plan to put Toronto Hydro wires underground over the next 20 to 30 years, starting with arterial roads and streets where major construction is planned.[*]Have Toronto Water waive the fee attached to requests from residents or businesses to turn the water connection on or off between Dec. 21 and Jan. 3.[*]Looking at the feasibility of starting an emergency reserve fund equivalent to $1 per month for the average home, and the equivalent for non-residential assessments.[*]Not looking into the pros and cons of the city having an official media spokesperson.[/list]
Ice storm by the numbers

[list][*]1,000,000 People who lost power, accounting for 36 percent of the power grid
50,000 Residents in Toronto Community Housing whose power went out — in 168 buildings and 19,400 units
50,000 Individual service lines that went down
128,000 Calls received on Dec. 22 by Toronto Hydro, which usually takes between 3,000 and 5,000 calls a day.
$1.8 million Total cost for Parks, Forestry and Recreation $13 million Total cost for Toronto Hydro
10 Police stations where power went out, four of them having no generators or backup power[/list]