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Hamilton seeks financial help

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton politicians unanimously declared Jan. 13 the city a disaster area following the extensive damage associated with last month’s ice storm.

Councillors are also requesting the province to cover all uninsured costs the city had accumulated during the event that had 30,000 people without hydro for more than two days.

Mike Zegarac, the city’s corporate finance general manager said so far the estimated cost for Dec. 21 event is about $5 million that includes expenses from all departments and Horizons Utilities.

“That is still a preliminary figure,” said Zegarac.

Mayor Bob Bratina said Hamiltonwill be joining other municipalities that suffered severe damage during the ice storm to band together to access any provincial funding available.

“That will be a very powerful message when we meet with the other mayors,” said Bratina.

Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead said it makes sense to work with other hard-hit municipalities to pressure the provincial government to seek the vital funding.

“The province has a much greater pocket,” he said.

The motion, introduced by Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, and Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge, requests the province to provide financial help to the city and Horizon Utilities through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. The city in 2009 applied for disaster relief through the same program in the wake of severe flooding, but the province rejected its claim.

Meanwhile, it could take by April for Hamilton’s forestry staff to get the trees damaged during last month’s ice storm cleaned up.

“It’s going to be longer than two months,” said Mike McNamara, forestry manager. “The end of March or the first of April. We are continuing to reassess the situation.”

That doesn’t include ifHamiltongets hit with another severe snow or ice storm, said public works staff, which would extend the clean up even longer.

McNamara said forestry staff had 3,675 tree damage calls, and 1,750 tree damage work orders completed. He said about 20 forestry crews are working five days a week cleaning up the damage that cut a wide swath across the city, including Flamborough, Ancaster, the mountain, and Glanbrook.

McNamara said the emergency situations have been solved, but now staff is looking at trees on public access areas. He said trees on private property will get examined, but it is the homeowner who needs to clean it up.

Some councillors wanted an immediate update to the ice storm cleanup to provide residents with more information. “

“Upper Stoney Creek was hit significantly,” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark. “There are still tree branches piling up on theValleyParkparking lot. We should get a full report to residents.”

Partridge, who represents one of the hardest hit areas, said the storm left power out for four days. She had to drive around in her vehicle charging her Blackberry, the only way she had to communicate with people.

She said three weeks later there are still trees in city parks and roadways that remain devastated.

“It’s an absolute disaster,” she said. “The devastation to the tree canopy is quite unbelievable.”

Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson said residents will have to be patient.

“It is progressing,” he said. “It will take time.”

Councillors did praised city workers for working through the city hall shutdown during the holiday season, conducting “yeoman’s work” sometimes in dangerous situations, as they provided necessary assistance to resident during the crisis.

“They did a fantastic job,” said City Manager Chris Murray.

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