As many residents of Thornhill, particularly those in Bayview Glen, noted during the devastating ice storm in December 2013, we have some of the oldest power utility grids in Markham. This includes more overhead power lines and backyard connections than elsewhere in the city.
The ice storm had significant impacts in Markham from a financial and environmental perspective. Over 11,000 trees were damaged and, of course, we had the responsibility of attending to a massive clean-up over many months.
While significant portions of streets will be open for the storm sewer work, it may make sense and be cost-efficient for PowerStream to lay the necessary underground wires for possible future use and connection when other roads and areas are worked on.
What have I done?
- On the 2nd full day of the ice storm, I asked Mayor Scarpitti to ensure that the Thornhill Community Centre was opened, in addition to the Milliken Mills community centre in the east end of Markham, to assist Thornhill residents who were without power.
- The storm was particularly devastating to many of our seniors who would have found it almost impossible to attend to the clean-up and removal of large tree limbs and branches from their front yards. I fought to ensure that our City crews attended not only to trees on City parts of the boulevard, but helped our seniors and disabled with their front yards.
- I repeatedly asked the Mayor early on during the storm to hold a Special Council Meeting to consider a Resolution asking the Province for emergency funding under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. The City of Markham is hoping to receive $9.8 million under the Province’s Ice Storm Assistance Program.
- I have asked Mayor Scarpitti to investigate the feasibility of burying power lines while large sections of roads were opened for the storm water upgrades. I have also written to PowerStream’s President, Brian Bentz, directly. This is efficient and cost-effective planning for the future.
Moving forward – areas of concern
As many residents know, I felt strongly that PowerStream as an organization failed in providing timely and accurate information. Their communications system did not function as we have every right to expect it to. It is their responsibility to prepare for worst-case scenarios, not just the run-of-the-mill localized outages.
If I am re-elected as your Councillor, I will continue leading the fight for updated infrastructure improvements for Thornhill residents. The questions I will want to have answered at Council will be:
- How do we better meet the needs of seniors and the vulnerable during disasters?
- How can Alectra and the City of Markham work with others in the communications industry to ensure that we are still able to get information out to residents during an emergency?
- What could we do differently in the future?