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City needs to prepare better for changing climate: Vandal

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A veteran city councillor says emergency situations resulting from climate change will be more frequent in the future and the city needs to be better prepared to deal with them.

St. Boniface’s Dan Vandal said the city responded the best it could to the frozen water lines but added such situations likely will be more frequent in the future and a similar response will not be adequate.

"Everyone will understand it’s been an extremely cold winter and there’s been lots of snow," Vandal said following a special meeting of the public works committee this morning.

"The lesson to be learned here is climate is changing, it’s going to offer all sorts of different challenges to municipalities and large cities and we need to start thinking about trying to get a handle on the unexpected, in terms of weather."

Vandal was responding to questions regarding the several hundred properties without water because the city’s water lines have frozen as a result of an unexpected deep frost.

City officials said Monday the number of properties affected has climbed from under 300 to over about 520 in a little over a week and the numbers are expected to increase in the coming days and weeks.

Officials said the waiting time for assistance is on average 10 to 14 days but several property owners have been without water for three to four weeks.

There is likely no respite until late May or June, when the frost finally is gone from the ground.

Vandal said the city has done the best it could with the resources available, but added more creative solutions should have been explored to help affected property owners.

"It’s incumbent on civic leaders, both on the political level and administrative level, to start thinking that way," said Vandal, who is preparing a bid to run federally in 2015 and will not seek re-election to council in the October election.

Vandal said the city should double the number of pipe-thawing machines it has, from three to six, and make arrangements with municipalities to share such equipment and staff if more are needed.

"When you put it in context with what people are going through and suffering, it’s a minimal investment on behalf of the city of Winnipeg," Vandal said. "We have to be prepared for this in the future."

Vandal said residents who believe they’ve suffered economic damages as a result of the pipe freezing, should file a claim with the city.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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