The flood of 2017: compensation falls short for some residents

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Added: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:15pm
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Steve Dorion has been salvaging anything of value, from his home at Plage Belisle, before it is demolished.

Carl Hager

MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – Over 100 homeowners in the Municipality of Pontiac were seriously affected by the flooding this spring, with many homes and cottages damaged beyond repair; forty of those residents are still awaiting
resolution of their cases. It has been a long and frustrating grind as they work their
way through the required paperwork to determine if they can rebuild or will have to demolish their properties.
Stage one was when residents were required to attend a series of general
meetings to understand how to access the provincial disaster relief fund. Stage two is on-going, with residents meeting their individual case workers; another of these meetings took place on November 27th.  This stage has been particularly slow as the government did not have enough trained personnel and some residents had to send in the same information three or four times as files were lost or otherwise delayed.
The formula to determine if a primary residence is worth repairing is based on the
structure’s municipal tax evaluation; homes will be demolished if repair and
re-construction cost more than 50% of the evaluation. However, if demolition occurs, the home owner is then eligible for compensation of approximately 90% of the value, up to a maximum of $200,000.  Cottages do not qualify for this relief.  Once slated for demolition a home cannot be rebuilt on the original site. After demolition, owners are responsible for cleaning the lot and filling any remaining septic tank with gravel etc.; they are then eligible for compensation for the value of the land, which reverts to the municipality.
Residents have faced problems when contractors stopped giving repair
estimates; based on the provincial formula contractors did estimates only to find the building slated for demolition. This has further delayed the process for homeowners as contractors willing to do the required estimates are more difficult to find.
In the Plage Belisle sector, nine homes have already been demolished.  Steven Dorion, a Plage Belisle resident, is scheduled to have his home demolished mid-December. With the help of family and friends he has been salvaging anything of value from his home and cleaning the lot. He noted that he will have to pay the $20,000 demolition fee up front and, given that his case worker is now on holidays, he doesn’t know when he will be reimbursed. Dorion admits that if it wasn’t for his parents offering him lodging, his situation would have been much worse.
Wendy Ryan, also a resident on Bord de l’Eau Road, noted that the flood brought out the best in people as neighbours, friends and family rallied to help each other, lending generators to power sump pumps or filling sandbags by the hundreds. For Ryan and her husband, their basement flooded, and they lost all their personal belongings stored there. The cleanup was arduous and they are now entitled to receive “minimum wage” compensation for doing the work themselves.
Residents unhappy with the offers they have received from the government are
holding out for more. Still others are faced with the reality that compensation packages, whenever finally paid, will not cover the balance of their mortgage on a building that no longer exists; this could force some residents to declare bankruptcy.                  
                                (LL)