Council touts storm response, still wants review

·3 min read

Medicine Hat city council members conveyed thanks Tuesday evening for those who assisted in cleanup efforts following the July 18 tornado, during the first public meeting since the devastating storm.

Coun. Robert Dumanowski first raised the topic of the tornado during the energy and infrastructure committee review portion, following a verbal service area update from the city’s managing director.

While Dumanowski acknowledged councillors, including Mayor Linnsie Clark, had previous expressed gratitude, he felt compelled to once again publicly recognize the individuals, as well as neighbouring municipalities who provided support services.

“(People) live in and work in a community with the idea that if in need, your neighbours are going to come to a rally; come to your need,” Dumanowski said. “(And often these) reciprocating agreements aren’t formalized, but it’s kind of just an accepted practice. So, I do want to acknowledge that I think it’s important to do that. And I know it’s been done (in this instance).”

While Dumanowski named the City of Lethbridge specifically, he extended thanks to all those who provided support in the hours, days and weeks following the tornado, which damaged at least 21 Cypress County properties and cut off power for more than 7,400 area residents.

Dumanowski went on to inquire about the status of an upcoming incident debrief, something he hopes will provide answers to a variety of questions, including why a state of emergency was not declared locally, what is the estimated cost of damage and how data from the event can be used to enhance and inform future severe weather response strategies.

“I know our staff responded incredibly, very quickly and with great resilience, because we’re good at what we do,” said Dumanowski. “(And) it sounds like we weren’t impaired by not having declared our local state. (But I am) bringing forward a number of things not to pick away at things we didn’t do, (but to) ask for a review to be brought back to the public in some capacity, committee or through a presentation to council.

“I think the public would desire to understand it better. (And) these are the things the public are asking.”

Interim city manager Glenn Feltham agreed with Dumanowki and confirmed a full summary report would be provided to council at an undetermined future date.

“I do believe a full debriefing is absolutely necessary,” Feltham said. “That is a core part by how we do continuous improvement and how we continue to learn.”

Brian Mastel, the city’s public services managing director, also chimed in to highlight a city announcement released Tuesday morning, which confirmed the city is seeking provincial approval to access Alberta’s Disaster Recovery Program.

While discussing the program, Mastel affirmed the city’s decision not to declare a local state of emergency wouldn’t hinder chances of approval. If approved, Medicine Hat and area residents and property owners may qualify for financial relief for damages stemming from the tornado or related storm activity.

“I just want to assure council that the application for the Disaster Recovery Program is well underway and is not impeded by … declaration of a state local emergency,” Mastel said.

Still in the early stages of the application, the city is currently working the Alberta Emergency Management Agency – which administers DRP – to collect data about damage stemming from the tornado and storm.

The city is inviting affected residents and property owners to complete the Property Damage Survey, which can be found online.

Mastel, too, assured councillors a report would be brought forward, an action Clark requested be added to the energy and infrastructure committee’s list of outstanding items.

Instead, councillors spent approximately the next five minutes individually expressing their gratitude for those involved in storm cleanup, particularly city workers in the parks and recreation department, frontline response crews, such as road and utility workers, Echo Dale staff and those who provided director from city hall.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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