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District communities consider applying for disaster assistance


Following last Tuesday’s high winds and torrential downpours, several district communities are considering sending in applications for emergency funding through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.

While communities like Devlin, Morson, and Rainy River are still reeling from the storm damage, councils and administrators are beginning to look to the province for compensation.

“That’s going to go on our agenda for our council meeting [tonight]. I think there was an awful lot of damage,” noted La Vallee clerk Laurie Witherspoon.

Under the Ontario Disaster Relief Program, funds can be provided to alleviate hardships suffered by private homeowners, farmers, businesses, and non-profit organizations.

The funding would cover uninsurable damage, including destroyed appliances, emergency expenses, and damaged buildings.

In Rainy River, municipal staff still is working to relieve flooding but the town administrator indicated they will look into applying for help when they have the chance.

In Morson, meanwhile, where residents were cut off from the rest of the district until Saturday afternoon, Reeve Valerie Pizey and the rest of council will consider whether to apply for funding.

“Probably. We have a council meeting [Tuesday night] but we’ve asked our clerk to look at it already,” Reeve Pizey said Tuesday.

“Until today, we haven’t been able to assess what the water did up here. We saw on Tuesday what the wind did,” she added.

Morson is still littered with downed trees, and only lightweight vehicles were able to get through on Highway 621 as of yesterday afternoon.

“Some people said we should have declared a state of emergency and got money from the province but we repaired our roads,” noted Reeve Pizey.

“It was the province that needed help,” she added. “They had enormous problems across Northwestern Ontario and once again, as usual, we were last on the list.”

Fort Frances also is considering applying for relief. The town is asking residents, businesses, and municipal departments such as Public Works and the fire department to report the total amount of damage caused by the three storms.

“We’re doing a measure of the community damage and trying to get a handle on that,” noted Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach. “I think we’ve fared well compared to a lot of our neighbouring communities but we’re going to find out for sure.

On Friday, NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton urged all municipalities in the west end of Rainy River District to immediately apply for provincial assistance.

“It is important that municipal officials and individual citizens know that they can apply for financial disaster relief assistance,” Hampton said.

“It’s also important that both municipal officials and individual citizens keep careful track of their losses that resulted from the severe windstorm and flooding that happened earlier [last] week, and all costs incurred in restoring their property or dealing with the losses,” he added.

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