Mayors focus on hydro, phone problems

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Allyson Beauregard


Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL’S BAY – Municipal mayors gathered for an MRC meeting, August 26. Highlights of   the agenda included a               resolution to close Lake Dumont Road (see page 2), and discussions on hydro outages in the upper Pontiac, as well as the recent Bell telephone line break that affected most residents. 
Mayor of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, Winston Sunstrum, opened the       discussion regarding hydro outages, and asked why Hydro Quebec was not present.  Warden and Fort-Coulonge Mayor, Raymond Durocher, and Gabriel Lance, MRC’s Assistant Director General, explain-ed there had been a misunderstanding. Hydro Quebec thought they were attending a working session with the mayors and were not prepared to give a presentation or answer questions.
“We have a major     problem with service and communication with Hydro Quebec, especially with  people who make dec-isions about the service                   we receive,” stressed Sunstrum, who noted there was another outage             the night prior to the meeting. “Hydro Quebec (Brookfield) also services across the bridge. Outages in Ontario last for a minute or less; ours last forty      minutes or more. We’ve been told it’s caused by trees or leaves, and that we are at the end of the line….the line starts in Waltham! Apparently it’s a problem with the structure of the equipment. Some staff said it’s an easy fix, but Hydro has no desire to communicate or fix the problem,” he added.
Sunstrum explained the problems and the impact on development in the region. “There is a reputation that hydro service is poor here. We are trying to promote economic development and want to attract tourists and businesses, but they may think twice about coming.”
Sunstrum and David Gillespie, a resident of the area, have monitored the outages for a few years. Gillespie said there were    60 outages last year, while, by comparison, a Litchfield farmer had two; he estimated there may be up to          66 outages this year. “You have the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, this is the ugly!” he stressed, noting the goal is to make the number of outages in the upper Pontiac similar to the amounts experienced in other municipalities. “It dumbfounds me when they say those numbers are     normal,” added Terry Elliot, mayor of Clarendon.
Lucas Kaiser, a dairy farmer, also attended the meeting, and demonstrated the effect on investments in the area. “Word gets around and our area loses business when Interac machines are down. Mr. Kaiser invested $4 million in drainage etc. to get his business going when he came here and says he will not spend a penny more until this is dealt with,” said Gillespie.
Kaiser explained how the outages harm electric motors and equipment needed for his dairy operation. “I can’t invest more in electronics and risk them breaking with the surges. The UPA is working on the file but we are getting nowhere. Businesses in Pembroke just smile when they know you are from the Upper Pontiac area because they know of the problem,” he stressed, noting that newer ovens and stoves are also often victims of the surges.
Sunstrum asked for          a meeting with Hydro;           a resolution had been brought to council last January but it did not move forward. A motion was made to prepare questions for a working session with Hydro Quebec.
Remi Bertrand, MRC Executive Director, then discussed the major telecommunications breakdown on July 12 which left most Pontiac residents   without telephone or     internet service for several hours. “It’s unacceptable. It was the third large outage in five years and happened because there is only one line coming into the entire Pontiac,” he said.
“Something has to be done ……. Someday we will be left with a tragedy,” said Shawville Mayor, Sandra Murray, referring to the recent sink-hole repair on Highway 148 where the telephone line was severed.
Bertrand noted that          a formal complaint was       sent to the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC),       the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-munications Services, and Bell Alliant. “We received a response saying they would analyze the items highlighted in the            complaint,” he added.
The Board of the Conférence régionale des élus de l’Outaouais (CREO) adopted a           resolution supporting the Pontiac’s position. At that meeting, Warden Durocher, who is also an executive committee member of CREO stated, “It’s        unacceptable that such incidents recur. The consequences are serious and extremely dangerous to the public and first responder services (fire, ambulance, police), who cannot          adequately do their job.”
The next Council of Mayors meeting will be held September 28.