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Hamilton’s ice storm costs on hold

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

The cost to clean up after an ice storm devastated parts of Hamilton, including Ancaster and Flamborough, is estimated to be over $19 million.

But the province will only provide enough money to cover a portion of Hamilton’s costs, and only if the city applies yet again to a ministry of municipal affairs fund under the Ice Storm Assistance Fund. The province had earlier this year established a $190 million, one-time pot available to municipalities and conservation authorities to cover the costs incurred during the December 2013 ice storm.

But Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla argued he had heard from a “reliable source” that Hamilton wasn’t going to receive any compensation from the province.

“Clearly the province has rejected our claim,” said Merulla.

Ontario officials had announced earlier that the ice storm fund won’t cover the cost of replacing the tree canopy. For Hamilton that means it will have to somehow find an extra $7.3 million to replace the trees that neighbourhoods lost. In Ancaster, Flamborough, Stoney Creek and parts of west Hamilton trees were lying about buffeted by the high winds and heavy ice. The subsequent clean up operation took until May to complete once the improved weather allowed crews to get out.

Horizon Utilities suffered $700,000 in costs, while the Hamilton Conservation Authority had an extra $90,000 in expenses during the storm. That leaves Hamilton seeking $11.3 million for the province to cover. The province has a separate funding envelop for conservation authorities to use, say officials.

The deadline for submitting an application is Oct. 31, 2014, said Mike Zegarac, general manager of corporate services.

Mayor Bob Bratina called Merulla’s claims of having the city’s application rejected “nonsense.” He said the city is following the process.

Dundas councillor Russ Powers, who is in his final year  as president of the Association of Ontario Municipalities, said municipal officials recently urged the province to reconsider its decision not to fund the loss of trees.

Earlier this year the city did submit an application under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance. In April, provincial and city staff met to go over Hamilton’s costs associated with the ice storm. The province urged the city to re-submit an expression of interest for funding under the ice storm assistance program to the ministry of municipal affairs.

But since the provincial election was called, there has been little contact with ministry staff.

“Once an election is on, everything is on hold,” said Merulla.

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