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City, hydro storm costs add up

The city is getting closer to putting a price tag on the cost of cleaning up from the ice storm that hit Guelph just before Christmas.
City CAO Ann Pappert says an estimate specifically for the ice-storm cleanup cost will be part of a report that will go to city council sometime in February.
For now, the city can only estimate a total bill of between $500,000 and $750,000 for the combined cleanup from the Dec. 22 ice storm and a snowstorm that hit the city on Jan. 5, she told council’s meeting on Monday.
That snowstorm, which happened while city crews were still cleaning up after the ice storm, was expensive. It required a full plow-out of the city, which doesn’t happen often most winters.
The $500,000 to $750,000 estimate for the period of Dec. 22 to Jan. 14 was for cleanup costs financed by city taxes. It doesn’t include a further $35,000 in non-tax-supported costs incurred during this period by the city’s water and wastewater departments.
It also doesn’t include Guelph Hydro’s costs of dealing with the ice storm, which knocked out power to many Guelph homes. Guelph Hydro’s estimated costs associated with the ice storm are around $200,000, said Sandy Manners, hydro’s director of corporate communications. This includes Guelph Hydro staff labour costs, contracted arborists, fleet vehicle costs, replacement transformers, parts, cable and wire.
The figure provided to council Monday also doesn’t include eventual costs of restoring an urban canopy that saw the loss of many trees destroyed in the ice storm.
Pappert said Guelph is working with the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario in looking for ways to get provincial and federal help with the cost of the cleanup.
There is a question of whether local taxpayers should be expected to shoulder the entire cost of cleaning up after severe storms “if we are talking in the context of climate change,” she said after the meeting.
It will be a long time before the cleanup and recovery from the ice storm is finished, said a Jan. 24 news release from city hall.
The city’s forestry activities are being done in priority sequence, with only two of five phases already complete. These two phases are dealing with blocked sidewalks and removal of highest-risk hazards, such as branches hanging over hydro wires or near critical facilities.
It’s expected the third phase – clearing community trails and high-traffic park areas – will be completed by mid-February.
Work on the third phase is being combined with work on the fourth phase – removing marked trees, clearing boulevards and parks, and pruning city trees – to make the most efficient use of equipment and staff resources, the release said.
The timing of the fifth phase – grinding up remaining tree stumps and planting replacement trees – will be based on completion of phase four “and is estimated to occur in spring 2015 at the earliest,” it said.
“Crews have been working tirelessly to clean up after the recent ice storm, providing brush chipping in residential areas and cleanup in city parks,” Martin Neumann, the city’s manager of forestry, said in the release.
“Staff is working on addressing priorities, specifically clearing access and removing hazards on main community trails and high-traffic park areas, as well as removing damaged branches from residential areas.”

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