Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ice storm cost Toronto $106 million

TORONTO - City staff have slapped a $106 million price tag on last month’s ice storm, which knocked out power for thousands of Toronto Hydro customers and wreaked havoc on Toronto’s trees.

Coupled with the estimated $65 million cost of the massive July rain storm, bureaucrats estimate the City of Toronto got hit with $171 million in storm-related costs last year. Now they want council to ask the federal and provincial governments to provide financial aid.

Council meets Friday to debate asking for an unspecified amount of storm-related financial assistance.

Along with the request for cash, city staff also recommended that council urge the province to declare Toronto a “disaster area.” The move would make the city eligible for the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti said the city is working with other GTA municipalities hit by the ice storm to ask the province for help. He estimated the whole region could be looking at shouldering up to $250 million in ice storm costs.

“We all feel strongly that there needs to be something that assists us in regards to this,” Pennachetti said.

“As a group of municipalities, we’re arguing that we need assistance — this is very big for us. We can’t afford it.”

City staff included the cost of the July storm, as well, because those costs weren’t covered by the province’s disaster relief program.

“We believe that we’ve got a strong argument now with the combination of both storms,” Pennachetti said. “We really hope the province and the federal governments will look at this now and say, ‘This is big.’”

Among the costs from the ice storm, the city has a $25 million bill for its eight-week debris clean-up program, $52 million to deal with tree damage, $8.8 million in costs to Transportation Services and $1.5 million in costs for Toronto Water.

According to the staff report released late Wednesday, Toronto Hydro’s preliminary cost estimate from the ice storm is $13.9 million while Toronto Community Housing is looking at $2.1 million in costs and the TTC had $700,000 in costs.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly called the ice storm cost estimate “a whack of money.”

“The province has cooperated with us all through the crisis and I’m hoping they’ll continue to do so and give us a helping hand,” he said.

“What you ask for and what you get are two different things. I’m sure we’ll ask for what is feasible.”

Kelly wouldn’t speculate on how the city would cover a shortfall if other governments don’t ride to the rescue.

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