Question answered…finally

Kevin Higgins
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Town puts significant infrastructure investment into flood-struck areas

The question was asked several months ago, and many Gander residents were waiting a long time on an answer.

WHAT WILL YOU DO? – Gander resident Claude House, right, listens as Gander’s Municipal Works and Services Director James Blackwood answers questions regarding flooding in the town over the Labour Day weekend at a media question-and-answer session Sept. 4 in council chambers. Mr. House was one of those asking questions, and he finally got an answer at council’s Dec. 18 council meeting as it released its 2014 budget.

An answer they finally received Dec. 18, when Gander Town Council passed its 2014 budget.

On Sept. 4, Claude House was among more than 20 residents who joined the media at a question-and-answer session in council chambers, and when he had the opportunity, he point-blankly asked, “When are you going to fix Peterson and Blackwood (Drives) … and Edinburgh?”

His question came after many households in Gander, including those on the streets mentioned, received damage caused by flooding after more than 125 millimetres of rain soaked the town Aug. 30-31.

On Dec. 18, Mr. House and many others got an answer to the question, as the Town of Gander will be investing just over 22 per cent of its $14,031,161 budget for 2014 for projects specifically prone to flooding during major storms events. A total of $4,820,000 is being put into water and sewer, with $3,135,000 of that earmarked for the identified flooded areas.

Mayor Claude Elliott said council knows there have been issues the past few years when major (rain) storms have hit the town, such as the one over the Labour Day weekend.

“There seems to be some areas that are being hit the second or the third time, so we decided we wanted to try and upgrade our infrastructure there…if you look at the Blackwood, Peterson and Edinburgh area, they’ve been flooded three times in the last seven or eight years…hopefully we can mitigate that area as well as several other areas,” he said.

“It’s a fairly hefty budget when it comes to capital works and infrastructure, and we felt this was a good year to start doing it.”

Leading up to the budget release date, Mayor Elliott said the town had some consultant work done to identify priority areas and what work needed to be done, and he knows there are some people left wondering why their street is not included in this series of upgrades, as well as what will be done for them in the future.

“Unfortunately, we can’t do everything the one time…we have to take the areas that get hit the most, and it seems to be the same ones over and over again,” he said. “Some people are going to say ‘Why did they do nothing here?’

“We can’t do everything the one time, as it would probably cost you hundreds of millions of dollars, so we have to take the worst areas and work from there.”

Even with the upgrades to come, Mayor Elliott said there is no guarantee there will be no more flooding in the future.

“The weather is unpredictable, as we’ve seen over the past number of years,” he said. “There was a time when you had storms like the one this past summer every 25 years, but now it seems like we’re getting them every three or four years. Maybe not Gander, but right around the province.

“If you get 150 millimetres of rain over three days you’ll probably be fine, but if you get that amount over two hours you’re going to have problems.

“There’s no guarantee that we can fix it for every storm, but we have to do something, and that’s what we’re doing in areas that have experienced flooding multiple times.”

Other areas that will receive water and sewer upgrades from this budget announcement include: Memorial Drive, Alcock Crescent, Blair Place, Johnson Street, Lewington Place, Mattern Street, Collishaw Street, Bennett Drive, Bowes Street, and Gordon Street.

Mayor Elliott said he is hopeful the work will begin in the spring.

“Over the winter (our plan is) to get all the legwork done, get all the engineering work done, and get the tenders out and awarded to get it started in the spring,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get things out early and get the contracts in, so when the snow is gone we can get some of the work done that needs to be done.”

Organizations: Gander Town Council, Claude House

Geographic location: Gander, Edinburgh

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