As people on flooded Joly Street on Île-Bizard left for work Friday morning by foot or by boat, there was a lot of talk about the tense situation that had played out the night before.
“From what I understand, emotions were high,” said resident Jessica Houle.
On Thursday evening, a group of volunteers decided to mobilize on Joly Street to build a dike. A call went out on the Operation MTL Flood 2019 — Helping Hands Facebook group. Volunteers felt building a wall of sandbags on the street could help keep water out.
The city did not agree.
“We were operating like we’ve been doing since the 18th, building dikes,” recounted Scott Lussier, a volunteer who was working on Joly Street on Thursday night. “A city official showed up, said the plan’s not going to work and we have to call it quits until we go through the city’s red tape.”
Volunteers from the West Island and beyond have been working long hours to help people save their homes from flooding. When a city official told them they were not allowed to do what they’ve become accustomed to doing, many were upset.
“We just want to help every person who walks on this lot. Every person who comes here comes because they want to help, they want to make a difference,” volunteer co-ordinator Sabrina Stoute told Global News through tears after the incident on Thursday evening.
Volunteers came to Joly Street with good intentions, but according to the city, what they were trying to do would not have worked.
“It’s almost an impossible task,” explained Île-Bizard Mayor Normand Marinacci. “We did assess the situation on Joly, and they didn’t have all the information so we asked them to stop.”
Marinacci said Canadian Forces engineers had checked out the area two weeks ago.
“Two weeks ago, we asked the Army to put a wall near Joly (Street) houses. They started and their engineer said it’s not possible. It’s a swamp, and they just couldn’t do it,” he explained. “If they think they can stop the overflow of the swamp, it’s almost not realistic.”
Marinacci said he has an enormous admiration for the tireless work volunteers have been doing.
“It’s not a question of ‘We don’t want them to work or help’ — we really appreciate what they do,” said the mayor.
But he said volunteers should have spoken to the city before starting their project on Joly Street.
“If the volunteers think they can do something, they have to talk to us because we have the knowledge, the experience and we know what can be done,” Marinacci explained.
Stoute called the incident a “miscommunication” and said she looked forward to working with the city.
“Let’s all get on the same page, which is helping these people, helping our community and finding the best way to do that,” she told Global News.
The city and volunteers agreed to meet on Friday afternoon to discuss the best way to work together.