PAB works on cleanup, housing before winter

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

– with files from René J. Roy

PORT AUX BASQUES — Mayor Brian Button continues his work to ensure all residents are informed as quickly as possible when it comes to post-Fiona relief efforts, but even he doesn’t have an exact timeline as to when everyone will have answers and when everything will be completed. What Button does know is winter is coming and certain things have to be prioritized in anticipation of the weather.

“Our focus has been that we’ve kept the bins out around so anybody with debris on their properties that needed to get some debris cleaned up, they can put it in the bins, and we can get it removed there. We’ve got a lot of work to do, especially now when we start getting back into the demolition of properties, once the appraisers do their work and whatever is done there, and then we will get back into more of the cleanup,” explained Button.

Even though there is some waiting around for prioritized work to be completed, that doesn’t mean that things everywhere else have been put on hold.

“We’ve put our focus, while we’ve been waiting, trying to deal with the infrastructure damage to our outfalls that we’ve got to get some repairs done on before the winter season hits. We are trying to address those situations now. While one thing is taking place, we are trying to move into another one, which is equally as important,” said Button.

Button said the costs associated with the cleanup will be submitted to the disaster relief fund and not fall entirely on the town's taxpayers.

“Our bills are going under the disaster fund. Anything that’s related to the cleanup, part of it will be submitted through that,” said Button. “The Town has incurred expenses up front from trying to do it, but we will be putting that in as part of the $30 million and the things for the efforts of trying to get the cleanup done. As we continue to go through, the bills will get larger.”

Before construction begins on replacement or repair for damaged infrastructure, certain checks must first be conducted.

“We’ve had divers in the water today (Tuesday, Nov. 1) to check the outlets on our sewer outfalls to make sure there’s not damage on those before the construction starts on the inner parts to re-hook some of this stuff up,” said Button.

As assessments continue to be completed, some families are being told their home will also have to be demolished, adding to the previous number of 96 homes lost.

“There were a couple more homes that were added that did receive letters this past week, weekend, and they’re now part of that list,” said Button. “The team that’s here on the ground from the province, they’re still doing quite a bit of work. The work is just back and forth because we have so many things that are in the hopper, from homes and residential to commercial, to infrastructure damage with outfalls. It’s just an overall bad mess that we are trying to find our way through, and we’ve got a small window to get some of it done.”

As cleanup takes place, displaced residents are still left with questions about where they are going to live during the winter. Button said conversations to secure more accommodations remain ongoing.

“We’re working with a couple companies now. We’re waiting to see what they may be able to do, waiting on their proposal and such, but a lot of this comes down to what is going on with the province of how the compensation package with the residents is looking like, and what the residents are going to need and want to do,” said Button. “Temporary solutions... I know of several people now being able to be relocated in temporary homes or apartments or some sort of accommodation, so that stuff continues, knowing that the season that we’re running into is not giving us a lot of time.”

Button said that more permanent solutions are also being considered.

“Every day you turn the page from one thing and turn into the next thing and discussions and solutions and everything else. It’s just been nothing like anything I’ve experienced before in my life.”

Another major concern for homeowners is dealing with the insurance companies with regards to their coverage. Button said he and the Town haven’t spoken directly with the insurance companies to discuss individual assessments.

“Insurance companies may have called our office for various reasons, but nothing where we’ve discussed on personal items. Personal insurance claims are through the individuals, the insurance holder, and we haven’t spoken on that part of it. We’ve had insurance companies reaching out for different things, but nothing where we are involved with the actual claim, if there is a claim that’s being accepted from the insurance holder.”

Button said the most important thing to hold onto now is patience while the details are finalized.

“There are multiple things that are happening, and everybody is trying to work through it all, trying to deal with, first of all, the people who have been displaced, those who have suffered the biggest damages,” said Button. “I keep saying there are so many moving parts, and it’s just mind boggling some days. There’s days where I’m - I don’t know what the right word is – but you’re rattled. There’s just so much and at the end of the day some days you feel like you accomplished ten things and other days you feel like you accomplished nothing. That’s just because of the nature of what you’re dealing with.”

Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News