Cleanup efforts underway following last week’s ice storm

Mother Nature hit Woolwich with what is hopefully the last blast of winter weather heading into the long weekend, leaving every surface covered in a layer of ice, a few power outages from downed power lines and, most noticeably, a littering of tree branches both large and small.

The cleanup is still underway.

Woolwich Township and the Region of Waterloo are teaming up to make sure the mess caused by last weekend’s ice storm is cleared away as efficiently as possible.

The damage is no worse than previous storms, says township CAO David Brenneman, with downed power lines and broken trees all around Woolwich. He even predicts the cleanup job to be a bit smaller than previous years.

“We are expecting slightly less than previous ice storms, because it doesn’t look as significant, but still, it will be a big program that we are undertaking. We want to give people as many options as possible,” he said, adding the full extent of the damage and cost to the township is still unknown. “We will probably know better in a month’s time.”

Township cleanup efforts will start right away, focusing on areas that are prominent for this weekend’s Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

“Tree branch collection is a priority in certain areas of Elmira,” he said. “Up and down Arthur Street and connecting roadways.”

Starting next week, the region’s regular yard waste pickup schedule starts, giving residents a chance to dispose of  smaller debris from their property. Brenneman asks residents to check their waste pickup schedules to see when their neighbourhood is included. All the regular rules apply for yard waste disposal.

In order to get branches picked up, Cari Rastas Howard, project manager for waste management programs with the region, says debris must be under 92 cm (three feet) in length, and less than 7.5 cm (three inches) in diameter, and must be bundled and tied with twine and weigh less than 23 kg (50 pounds), may also be placed out in paper bags or a garbage can with a region yard waste sticker or brightly coloured ribbon identifying it as yard waste. Branches in plastic bags will not be collected and all debris must be out by 7 a.m. on your regular collection day.

The Elmira transfer station will also be open during regular hours, but tipping fees will be waived for ice storm branches and debris, thanks to an agreement between Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot and North Dumfries townships, along with the region.

Woolwich will also put crews out on the streets to do a final sweep of the township, collecting and chipping branches properly laid out on the curb. Homeowners are asked to have their branches out and ready for pick up by 7 a.m. on Apr. 11.

“It gives everybody from a consistency and fairness standpoint more than suitable opportunity to be aware of the program and to be aware of what all residents need to do,” said Brenneman. “We want to do it in one shot. The rules are the same for everyone. Have it out on Apr. 11 and we are going to be around in the coming weeks to collect or we can’t guarantee pick up. If we have been through your area, we don’t want to have to go back. All residents will be asked to put their tree branches in a very neat, orderly and organized way at the curb, and to make best efforts to have the branches all places in a consistent direction. This will be for the ease of the program and also from a safety perspective, that they keep the sidewalks and roadways clear.”

The extra man-hours and equipment needed for the cleanup efforts before the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival and on April 11 aren’t going to set the township back any extra funds. Brenneman says there is a contingency fund to pay for situations exactly like this one.

“One of the smart things that we did (in 2013), is that council approved the transfer of $160,000 in disaster relief funding that we got from the province into the operating contingency following the last ice storm,” he said.  “As staff, we recommended that they do that because we feel that it is not a question of whether ice storms will happen in the future, it is only a matter of when. “

The clean up project is expected to use up about $50,000 of the emergency funding acquired from the province in 2013.

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