Public Security and ZIS maps delay construction - Flood victims worried as winter looms

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Added: Wed, 09/25/2019 - 10:17pm
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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC & PONTIAC – Twenty weeks, 142 days and 3,408 hours was the count L’Isle-aux-Allumettes resident Jennifer Gagnon was at as of August 16 to describe the amount of time she has been out of her home following the severe flooding this spring that destroyed the main level of her home.
Like many Pontiac residents, Gagnon and her family have applied for
government compensation and are waiting for their file to be finalized in order to make decisions about their future; a slow process many feel is holding up work. 
“We’re staying at my daughter’s cottage and trying to make it work knowing others have it worse than us,” she said. A number of Pontiac residents are staying in camper trailers while waiting government decisions and will need to move again when colder temperatures hit.  
Although Gagnon and her family received emergency compensation from the
government for displacement and efforts to save their home shortly after the distaster, they are still waiting for their file to be finalized through the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) so they can be compensated for damages.
“We submitted our information as quickly as possible, had the house evaluated and the report was received by our file’s agent. We’re now waiting in queue until we hear our file is complete. It’s something that’s always on your mind, wearing you down more as the time goes by,” she explained.
Although an evaluator was fairly quick to assess the damage, his report took about five weeks to complete, which added to delays caused by the government’s Special Intervention Zone (ZIS) mapping. In order to obtain a renovation permit, Gagnon’s home couldn’t be damaged beyond 50% of its value. 
According to Pontiac MNA André Fortin, the government hasn’t indicated when the final version of the ZIS map, which froze renovation and reconstruction on
the properties of Quebecers whose homes were damaged more than 50%, will be released.
“Many of the municipal requests for changes to the ZIS have yet to be made.
I will continue to press government to quickly make these changes, as errors on these maps have concerned citizens, hijacked municipal resources and diverted resources that should have been focused on flood victims,” said Fortin, confirming the map has added delays to an already delay-ridden process.
“The ZIS became the main focus when everyone should have focused on helping
citizens recover, treating their requests for compensation and identifying ways of
preventing future floods,” he added, noting many residents still don’t know if the
government will allow them to renovate or if they’ll have to move.
“With winter coming, it’s unacceptable that citizens are still held hostage by the MPS's process and delays. They cannot fix their homes without MPS completing the files,” he added.
Gagnon also considers herself lucky because she and her husband were able to afford to proceed with some renovations without first receiving government compensation, something many people were not in a position to do. “Our home was lifted five feet and we have re-insulated and installed drywall, trying to do as much of the work as possible ourselves. Big things still need to be done like
re-installing the heating and plumbing, re-doing the kitchen and bathrooms, and getting a new septic system,” she told the Journal, stating her family has invested about $30,000 out of pocket to date.
Gagnon is hoping to be back home by Christmas. “There are still so many
variables to figure out and with winter approaching, it increases our anxiety …The disruption has caused severe anxiety in all of us; changing the routine of a special needs child, and trying to stay on top of a fast-paced real estate business without adequate office space when your world is already chaotic. We are strong together and are taking it all in stride with the support of family and friends,” she concluded.
This anxiety is also something experienced by Jane Toller, both as warden of the MRC Pontiac and as a flood victim herself who hasn’t been in her home since April 28; she has been living in a trailer on her property. “It takes its toll when you’re kept from your home. I really empathize with all the people who are in dire straits and I encourage them to give me a call if they need help. Sometimes it’s just being
told what to do. With winter coming, nobody should be homeless or living in trailers without insulation. We need to make provision for these people,” she said.
According to Toller, this year is an improvement from 2017. “In 2017 the damage reports weren’t finished until late December, but this time they were done in august. I was assured by Public Security that most people would receive their money by the end of September and some already have,” she told the Journal.
Toller listed other reasons for delays, like sending damage reports to the municipalities rather than property owners. “Municipalities don’t have the resources to phone everyone and say their report arrived. Days and weeks could be lost before you realize your damage report is in,” she said. Too much municipal caution in issuing building/renovation permits also caused delays, said the warden.
“I tried to convince them to just think of the people, do everything possible to give
permits, and not to worry. Quebec City can’t micromanage; they don’t have the time to come in and say the municipality acted unwisely or did the wrong thing. That building permit allows people to move forward,” she added.  
Fortin confirmed there are still victims of the 2017 flood who haven’t received compensation due to the complexity of their files or disagreement with the government’s analysis of the situation.
In addition to dropping temperatures forcing people out of their temporary shelters, Fortin said even if the MPS speeds up the process, there are simply not enough contractors available to do all of the needed work before the snow flies. “I’m immensely concerned with the welfare of many of the flood victims
over the coming months. Government needs to act quickly to help them find
solutions,” he concluded, encouraging flood victims to contact his office for help.