Residents to get a break on disposal of flood debris and sandbags

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After lengthy discussions around the table, Huntsville Council decided to give all residents, including business owners, a break when it comes to the disposal of sandbags and flood-damaged debris.

Town CAO Denise Corry told council at a special council meeting held Tuesday, May 7, that the municipality has no protocol in place, therefore, any such assistance and related costs would require council approval.

She said the municipality had received inquiries from residents about where they could take the sandbags and whether the Town could assist with picking them up. She said sandbags that were used in the flood could be contaminated by sewage and other contaminants. “Who’s to say what was in the water that surrounded them, so there is a process that people should take to remove those sandbags.”

Corry wanted to know what services council would agree to offer under the circumstances.

Councillor Jason Fitzgerald expressed concern with the cost of providing the service, but also worried about where the sandbags might end up. “Where are all these sandbags that are potentially contaminated going to end up? So I think the onus is upon the municipality to look after it, in this event,” he said.

Council agreed to provide a place to dispose of the sandbags and agreed the Town would help residents who require assistance with their removal. Drop-off is available daily at the Madill Yard, located at 169 Madill Church Road. Residents can also ask municipal staff for assistance to dispose of sandbags by calling 705-789-6421 ext. 0.

Similar discussions took place regarding vouchers in lieu of landfill disposal fees for debris associated with this year’s spring flooding.

At that point, Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano left the room. She noted that if council was going to include seasonal residents in its voucher program, she felt it would be a conflict of interest for her to weigh in as she has a seasonal property that was impacted by flooding.

Initially, the resolution brought forward by staff for the vouchers, also prompted by inquiries from area residents, included only residential property owners who had no insurance, but Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison asked council whether its members wanted to modify the wording to cover all residents, including seasonal residents and business owners. Council agreed. They also agreed that the cost would come out of the municipality’s working capital reserve.

In terms of the initial insurance requirement in order to receive the voucher, the Town posted the information on its website after the meeting and did not include the initial insurance requisite. You can find that and other related information here.

The landfill voucher is limited to one per household impacted by flooding. The amount of refuse is also limited to one half-ton and single-axle trailer load, or equivalent. Residents will need to provide proof that they live in an impacted area of Huntsville.

At the meeting, Councillor Jonathan Wiebe said the municipality should be better prepared for flood events in the future.

Wiebe said he’d like to see something put in place so that council does not need to have such discussions moving forward. He suggested that perhaps sandbags could be available every spring and a protocol put in place informing residents where to get those sandbags as well as instructions on how to properly dispose of them.

Aitchison agreed. He said in past years such discussions have concluded that having sandbags does not make sense, “but maybe that has changed,” he noted.

Councillor Tim Withey, who is also an insurance broker in town, said there’s a need to be better prepared as a community. He also suggested there could be better alternatives to sandbagging and said in his opinion it does not work where water levels stay high over a prolonged period.

Withey said he’s heard many complaints from business owners about not getting enough information, but also noted that businesses have a responsibility as well to do the research to help themselves.

Aitchison said council will need to have a broad discussion about how things went during the flood.

He used  Balckburn’s Landing where Boston Pizza is currently located as an example. “I had a lengthy conversation with former Mayor Doughty about when that building was constructed and with Mayor Clarke, who was the mayor at the time, and they built the openings to the doorways one foot above the highest ever recorded [water]level and it was about an inch and a half from going in the building,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure that hoping the next one [flood]isn’t as bad is really a sustainable solution, and that also will be a much broader discussion about what we can do.”

Discussions on how to better prepare for flood events in the future as well as addressing flood-prone areas are expected to continue.

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