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Hamilton seeking disaster relief from province

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 A decision on how to distribute gift cards to Hamilton residents who lost food during the recent power outrage could happen by next week, says Mayor Bob Bratina.

He has been talking to provincial officials about the process, and what type of informationHamiltonneeds to provide to receive the necessary funding.

“The province has asked us for our information, which we are gathering,” said Bratina who hosted his 2014 New Years Day levee Jan. 1 at city hall.

“I don’t think it will take much longer than the middle of next week to get a firm response on how they will roll that (program) out.”

The province has already distributed about $160,000 in gift cards to people who lost food during the ice storm that swept through eastern Canada prior to Christmas. Provincial officials were scheduled to distribute more gift cards at Ontario Works offices inTorontoJan. 2 and 3.

Provincial officials were limiting the gift cards to people who lost food and are unable to replace it without some financial assistance.

Durham Region, Brampton and Guelph also expressed an interest in receiving the gift cards.

Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community safety and correctional services, stated in a Dec. 31 release, provincial officials were communicating with the various municipalities.

“We are working with them on the best way to begin distribution,” she stated.

Meanwhile, Hamilton city staff is already making the necessary applications to the provincial government for financial compensation in the aftermath of the ice storm.

The last time the city filed an application to the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) was in 2009 when the city experienced a severe rain storm resulting in serious flooding issues. The province turned down theHamilton’s application.

“It will be up to (the province to determine if the city qualifies),” said Bratina. “We need to determine the cost.”

Bratina saidHamiltonstaff, along with Horizon Utilities officials, is already calculating the storm’s expenses. He said Horizon Utilities officials are seeking invoices from contractors, and the cost of bringing in outside utility workers to restore the power.

“The cost of the city will be part of the cost of Horizon Utilities,” said Bratina.

Hamilton is a shareholder of Horizon Utilities.

City officials have already said the final storm cost could be available within a couple of weeks.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has stated he wants the province to cover his city’s estimated $10 million bill for the storm.

Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla is scheduled to introduce a motion at the Jan. 15 general issues committee to formally ask the city to apply to the ODRAP program. He also wanted city staff to investigate how the local utility can restore power once it is off within at least six hours, similar to what European countries require.

Bratina said there is no need for council to approve a motion seeking provincial funding. He said city staff is currently involved in the application process.

About 35,000 households in Hamilton, mainly in Glanbrook, the eastern Mountain, Ancaster, and Flamborough were without power for a number of days.

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