Thursday, October 23, 2014

Disaster relief funding in limbo

It could take a while before the Town of Fort Frances finds out from the province regarding what disaster relief funding it may get.
Treasurer Laurie Witherspoon said Monday during the Emergency Management Control Group meeting here that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has not yet officially declared a disaster situation in Fort Frances, which is part of the process to make the town eligible for funding from the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.

Once this declaration is made, the town will be able to apply to ODRAP for compensation for some expenses incurred in the past month-and-a-half to safeguard the town against the rising waters of Rainy Lake and the upper Rainy River.
But exactly what will be eligible for relief funding remains to be seen.
Witherspoon said in an interview yesterday that ODRAP funding is to be used to “get infrastructure back to pre-disaster condition.”
“We would have to submit an application saying, ‘We have spent this,’ in order to get things back to where they were,” she explained, adding sinkhole repairs and sandbags are two such expenses.
“They’re going to reimburse us for things that have been actual costs for us,” said Witherspoon. “They will determine what’s eligible.
“It’s not that we’re going to get a bunch of money and then we decide where we’re going to spend it,” she stressed.
“We already have these expenditures and that’s what we would be applying for.”
Witherspoon said the town also will have to speak with ODRAP regarding the government dock to see what can be done.
“We would actually have to spend the money on the dock to get money for the dock,” she reasoned.
“Hopefully, they’ll help us recover some of the costs, because it was breaking away, for bringing it on shore and hauling it away,” she noted.
“Hopefully we get covered for that. But at this point, I have no idea what we’ll get covered for.
“It will definitely be for expenses we have already incurred,” Witherspoon reiterated. “We’re not going to get a pot of money to say, ‘Okay, go rebuild your dock.’
“That’s not going to happen.”
Fort Frances Mayor Avis said Monday that the subject of the dock is something that will have to be discussed by council at budget time.
In response to a question from Mayor Avis, who has been asked about disaster relief for private homeowners, Witherspoon clarified Monday that council had asked the ministry to declare an emergency situation so the town could get some disaster relief for damage to public property, not private property.
She said that if the town did ask for the declaration for the purposes of funding for private property owners, the town immediately would have to set up a committee and start a fundraising process.
For every dollar raised, the province would match it up to a million dollars, and then on a different scale after that.
“There’s no funding coming from the province,” Witherspoon said. “The province, as we all know, is in a deficit. They don’t have money.
“They told us that right up front when they came,” she noted.
“They have no money—it would be strictly a fundraising process to raise dollars.”
“[The ministry’s] recommendation was to stay away from the private declaration,” said Fort Frances Fire Chief Frank Sheppard.
“That was based on the view that it’s a very cumbersome process . . . for you to have to follow,” he added.
“They said there’s a higher likelihood if it was an area-wide disaster,” Chief Sheppard noted.
“So if everything was sort of damaged between here and Rainy River, and there was a lot of private damage, that changes their viewpoint of how those dollars are managed.”
It’s also likely private properties damaged by flooding here would not be eligible.
According to its guidelines, the private component of ODRAP is intended “to provide for the necessities of life for those impacted by a natural disaster get back on their feet, when it is beyond the capacity of the municipality or community to assist.”
Furthermore, eligible private losses and costs include damage to primary residences, essential furnishings, replacement of inventory for businesses, and livestock fencing.
Private losses and costs not eligible under ODRAP include those covered by insurance, insurance deductibles, secondary residences (i.e., cottages), non-essential furniture, landscaping, fencing, driveways, and retaining walls, recreational vehicles (e.g., boats, snowmobiles, etc.), antiques and collections, loss of revenue or wages, and losses recoverable by law.
The latter category also includes docks and soil erosion.

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