Ottawa city council approved unanimously Wednesday to waive permit fees for work that needs to be done to homes damaged by last Friday’s tornadoes.
The fee waiver will apply to those who whose homes are located in the areas most affected by the storms. Those areas include Arlington Woods, Craig Henry, Greenboro and Dunrobin.
Fees being waived include those related to permits for demolition and building as well as fees related to assessing historic building permit records, replacement fees for specific number blades, as well as fees associated with sewer disconnection.
According to Mayor Jim Watson, by waiving this fee, the city is helping to alleviate some of the financial stress associated with the amount of damage sustained. The mayor says that by waiving these fees, the city is helping residents save between $500 and $2,000. Mayor Watson has also advised staff to expedite the permits related to the destruction for the storm.
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“I’ve told our staff, let’s not be bureaucratic,” Watson said. “Let’s make sure we cut some of the red tape so that we don’t have people waiting a long period of time to have their house demolished or rebuilt.”
The mayor also said that those who may have put in building permits not related to the storm will have to wait a little longer as the city works to triage and expedite the permits related to the storm.
On top of fee waivers, the city has set up three community support centres which will be staffed with workers who can help those affected by the storm when it comes to applying for permits and insurance, and which will even provide psychosocial services for those who are now beginning to deal with the amount of work ahead.
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City manager Steve Kanellakos spoke at the meeting about the hard work and professionalism by city staff but also said communication was something that needs to improve, especially in scenarios where power outages are affecting communications.
“The number one issue that we had, I think, was around communication,” Kanellakos said. “I think there are technical solutions for us to try and deal with communications issues.”
Kanellakos said cell phones were failing to get signals and very few who lived in the affected areas had access to the internet so social media wasn’t the best, either.
Kanellakos says one of the biggest priorities is to tell people to get access to battery-powered radios.
“It was very difficult to communicate without internet,” Kanellakos said. “So we were relying on radios and radio stations but people didn’t have radios so it was a challenge for us to get our message out.”
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