• James Armstrong

Lack of funds affects services for Rigaud flood victims


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Though sand and bags are available to Rigaud residents, services to residents have been reduced this year due to a 2018 decision, voted on by residents, to cut the town's budget.

Supplying sandbags, filling and delivering them to flooded neighbourhoods, and providing round-the-clock support services is an expensive proposition for towns such as Rigaud affected by the spring floods.

In Rigaud’s case, services have been reduced this year compared to 2017. For example, sand and sandbags are available at the town’s Fire Station for residents to fill and transport on their own. There have been complaints about the situation. “The answer is the town council meeting on January 22, 2018 where citizens demanded a cut to our budget,” Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. told The Journal on Monday, April 22.

He was referring to a council meeting to approve the rates and tariffs of the 2018 budget. At the time, citizens protested a considerable hike in property taxes to cover the costs of the exceptional 2017 flooding with the provision of a small financial cushion in case of a similar event in the future. Paying heed to the outcry from residents, the mayor and council made significant cuts to their proposed budget which meant a smaller increase in taxes.

“We don’t have the money to pay for the services,” said Gruenwald. The mayor predicted the cost of dealing with the 2019 flood situation could be between $200,000 and $300,000 depending on the final figures. He noted that other levels of the Quebec government would cover 74 per cent of the total cost with the balance being paid by the affected municipalities.

“There are problems every spring in areas such as Pointe-Fortune but not with this amplitude of water,” he said adding it was time to compare the cost of dealing with excessive flooding with the expense of governments purchasing the affected properties from homeowners. “If this keeps happening every two years or so, the town won’t be able to provide any sandbags.”

Current situation

“The water is rising slowly and no lives are in danger,” said Gruenwald, adding some people had chosen to remain in their homes in flooded areas. “It was the Quebec government that asked for the Canadian Armed Forces to come. They have been evaluating the needs of our region.” With rising temperatures, melting snow and rain predicted in the short-range weather forecast, there could be another rise in the level of the river he noted.

Canadian Armed Forces in Rigaud

According to Second Lieutenant Jacob Peel, Second Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment from Val Cartier, the Canadian Armed Forces had rescued two people since their arrival in Rigaud. “We are liaising with firefighters, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and ambulance services,” said Peel noting that ambulances have difficulty accessing flooded areas. “We have four light-armored vehicles (LAVs) here with my platoon and one from another platoon,” he said. The LAVs will be used to access flooded areas in emergency situations.

During their trek from Val Cartier to Rigaud, Peel’s platoon was called on to make a detour to Bécancour. “We had to secure a water treatment plant from flooding that serves seven municipalities,” said Peel. Besides the rescue in Rigaud, they filled additional sandbags on Sunday to have on hand. It’s an open-ended mission, according to Peel. “We have been told it could last one week but be prepared for longer.”

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Soulanges MNA Marilyne Picard (centre) met with Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. (left) and Pointe-Fortune Mayor François Bélanger to provide support in the flood crisis situation.

Support during and after

Soulanges MNA Marilyne Picard was at the Rigaud Fire Station on Monday, April 22 accompanied by the Parliamentary Assistant for Public Security Ian LaFrenière. Following an informal meeting with Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. and Pointe-Fortune Mayor François Bélanger, Picard spoke with media representatives regarding her involvement in the flood situation. “I’m here to give support to all those helping others,” said Picard adding her work is also to help the mayors of the towns and the volunteers pitching in to help. She said she was very appreciative of how well the crisis is currently being managed by the town.

“Here in Rigaud, we are lucky to have a well-organized team of firefighters, town employees, and many others providing exceptional support,” she said adding, “There will be a lot of work to do once the flooding is over.”

Counselling services available

Picard said there’s a need for psychological counseling in the extremely stressful situation that is a repeat of the 2017 flood for many. “Those services are provided by Centre Intégré de Santé et de Services Sociaux de la Montérégie-Ouest (CISSSMO) through the Aid Centre at the Rigaud Public Library,” she said. Similarly, counselling services are available in other towns affected by flooding. “People can also go to Vaudreuil-Dorion from here,” she added. Counselling services are also open to those providing support.

Financial Assistance

Financial assistance for flood victims is available according to Picard. She said the CAQ government had simplified the application process by cutting away the bureaucracy. “That’s what people were asking for,” she said noting the request for a simpler system came not only from applicants but also from the bureaucrats processing the applications.

When asked about long-term plans regarding homes located in flood zones, Picard said that would a topic coming up in the next caucus meeting.

“There are a lot of areas and Members of the National Assembly implicated in that topic,” she said.

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