A year and a half after hurricane Igor caused widespread damage to the eastern half of Newfoundland, the provincial government is preparing to spend $20 million over several months to clew up infrastructure repairs necessitated by the storm.
The work is set to be spread out amongst 50 communities, according to Kevin O'Brien, the minister responsible for fire and emergency services.
"Certain projects took priority over other projects, so these are just ones of lesser importance that have to be completed in this construction season," said O'Brien, who expects all the work will be finished by September.
The 18-month wait for some repairs may not sit well with some people, but O'Brien said a lot of planning and engineering work has been required, and recovering from an event like hurricane Igor takes time.
He also said there are capacity issues in the construction industry that is affecting the recovery process.
On those points, mayors in two of the larger communities hit by Igor on the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas appear sympathetic to the province's predicament.
"I think the hurricane itself was such an anomaly," said Sam Synard, the mayor of Marystown.
"In my lifetime and most of our province's population's lifetime, this was the biggest storm we've ever seen, and it hit a wide swath from the Burin to the Bonavista peninsulas and further afield. I certainly understand the magnitude of the damage itself. You're in the hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure damage."
Synard said everyone gets frustrated when repairs are not handled immediately.
Given that all the work won't be done until two years after the hurricane, Synard believes the next time such an storm hits the province, the response will be more swift.
"I think there's a lot of lessons learned. I know, as a municipality, we're much better equipped to deal with a major storm through our emergency measures preparedness and our learning experience. I'm not speaking for the province, but I think the same would apply for the province as well."
Bonavista Mayor Betty Fitzgerald said the scope of the damage from Igor makes delays in repairs understandable.
"It takes a period of time, I guess, to get all the work finished. ... We have to give government time to see that the work is done."
However, she'd like to see the remaining repairs dealt with soon, and said she receives frequent complaints from residents in one area of the community dealing with water runoff issues stemming from Igor.
What concerns Synard are the temporary repairs made in the aftermath of the storm.
"Everything is functional - let's put it that way - but it's not up to the standard we definitely would want it to be up to. In fact, our temporary repairs would not be able to withstand hurricane Igor even to the degree that the original infrastructure did."
In Bonavista, Fitzgerald said road work is still necessary in some places, and ditches clogged with debris from the hurricane still cause water problems.
Both Synard and Fitzgerald expressed concern over how their communities would hold up if a major spring storm were to occur.
A pair of tenders were recently advertised by the provincial government for Igor-related repairs, including one for road work in Trinity and another relating to the fire hall serving the local service district of Newman's Cove in Bonavista Bay.
Wilmore Coole, chair of the committee looking after Newman's Cove, said he has been generally pleased with the province's response to Igor.
"Everything else was taken care of good. We've had the road in around the brook done so far," Coole said. "A waterline was washed out and that was (fixed). The main road was done, and the part around the fire hall is the last (piece) of Igor work."
The provincial government has spent $90 million thus far on repairs. O'Brien said there are no communities or towns still negotiating with his department on claims for repair work.
As for the emergency management plans due from municipal governments and local service districts in May, O'Brien said approximately 90 per cent of communities in the province have completed them.
"We should have everything in place, or just about everything in place, by the deadline."
O'Brien said disaster assistance claims relating to Igor for homeowners, small businesses and non-profit organizations have been settled. Approximately 2,000 claims were filed with the province.
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