• Nick Zacharias

Rigaud residents raise pressure on flood response


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

Organizer Daniel Legendre (right) presents a proposal to Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald in front of town hall Thursday, with ideas brought forward by frustrated locals looking for better ways to deal with the flood crisis, and to be better prepared for future flood events

Citizens gathered last Thursday, May 23 on the steps of Rigaud Town Hall to present Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. with a proposal for current and future flood responses, and discuss existing problems with the emergency situation.

The six-page document was assembled by retired engineer and Rigaud resident Daniel Legendre, and was the product of two meetings with flood victims. In it are a number of constructive suggestions for short-term solutions to the crisis, and long-term ideas to mitigate harm from future floods.

Frustration levels rising

Mayor Gruenwald greeted the group with a positive outlook.

“Solutions are not easy, because there’s always a price tag attached, that’s the reality,” he said, “I’m energized to work in a positive way, and I congratulate you for taking the time to mobilize.”

Legendre presented the mayor with the document, affirming, “There are certain negative points here, but please see this as a heartfelt plea and not just a complaint … it’s a question of working together.”

When the residents spoke their frustrations were clear. Resident Jasmine Ellemo and several others brought up the plight of those living in the Chemin du Bas-de-la-Rivière sector, who had been unable to return to their homes for over five weeks because the only access road has been compromised by floodwaters.

“We’re moving from place to place, we’re only allowed in to pick up things and leave,” said Karen Sheffield. “It’s been very hard.” To add to the problem, even if the road is opened for light vehicles, it would be unsafe for large vehicles such as fire trucks to pass. When asked what would happen if one of the houses caught fire, the mayor responded, “It will burn. You have to understand there are safety regulations in place for a reason, you can’t fix one problem by causing another.”

Actions taken

After the meeting, Chemin du Bas-de-la-Rivière was opened to a single lane controlled by a traffic light, allowing some to begin returning to their homes. On Friday, May 24, Mayor Gruenwald gathered area officials to demand that the provincial government bear the burden of compensating flood victims for the cost of temporary lodging and food, as they did in 2017.

According to a press release from the town, the province is covering only 75 per cent of the cost, and will cancel that on May 31, meaning the municipality will be responsible for $100,000 per week to support hundreds of victims still out of their homes. In the meantime, victims are being relocated to a wing made available by Collège Bourget to help cut expenses.

Looking Ahead

Legendre and the others made clear that the problem of recurring floods is not just for the town to solve, but that organization and pressure is needed to get the provincial and the federal governments to take more action going forward. Mayor Gruenwald said he has taken steps towards that, and affirmed the town would study the proposal and be ready to discuss it further at the next council meeting.

Open letter to government

To see a letter submitted to the provincial and federal government signed by nine mayors in Vaudreuil-Soulanges concerning promises made for flood relief, click here.

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