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Mayor of Grand Forks, B.C., calls flood recovery buyouts ‘a serious issue’

Extended interview with Grand Forks mayor
An extended interview with the mayor of Grand Forks regarding the flood mitigation project, buy-outs and policy direction.

A section of Grand Forks will become a flood plain, according to the city’s mayor.

And because of that, homes in the North Ruckle area that were ravaged by flooding in 2018 will be bought out — part of a flood mitigation plan that was announced in late June by the federal, provincial and local governments.

At issue, though, is just how much affected residents will receive for their homes.

READ MORE: Grand Forks residents likely to receive post-flood home values

Will it be pre-flood value, post-flood value or somewhere in between?

In an interview with Global News, mayor Brian Taylor said the city learned that “the governments of Canada and the province are both sticking to their positions of negotiations for the buy-outs should be at a post-flood value.”

Taylor hopes to establish a negotiating team, likely a professional group “that would be the direction connections to the individuals, which all be done on a case-by-case basis.”

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WATCH BELOW (Aired June 27, 2019): Nearly $50 million announced for Grand Forks flood recovery projects

Nearly $50 million announced for Grand Forks, BC flood recovery projects
Nearly $50 million announced for Grand Forks, BC flood recovery projects

Asked who will be deciding the post-flood values, Taylor said “the post-flood value is a difficult one for anyone to speculate at this point.

“What do you have to base your evaluation of [the home]? Nothing, because you don’t have a post-flood [assessment]. So clearly, there’s going to be other factors taken into consideration.”
Taylor said some factors will come from the city, which will give the bargaining group “the tools they need to come to a fair conclusion with those [individual residents], that we can be fair about it.”

READ MORE: Grand Forks residents still struggling with recovery a year after flooding

“We’re taking their houses away,” he added. “It’s a serious issue. Highly emotional.”

Also asked what he’d say to a resident who could possibly receive a buyout well below market value, Taylor said, “we’re saying really sorry about that, but it was a disaster.

WATCH BELOW (Aired June 2, 2019): Grand Forks struggles with recovery a year after flooding

Grand Forks struggles with recovery a year after flooding
Grand Forks struggles with recovery a year after flooding

“Clearly, government is not the insurance of the people. So the actions at this point of the province, in particular, they have no mandate to go out and do this. They’re doing it because they’re establishing new rules and regulations in responses to climate change.

“So this is new ground for a lot of the province. And as far as the city goes, we do have an obligation to our people, but also to our taxpayers. In this situation, to be part of the deal for $53 million, our contribution when you total it all up is $3.5 million. That’s a lot for our city to absorb.

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“So what we’re saying is ‘We will try our best in kind.’ Which is just in the formative stages of us looking at what powers we have and what things we can do, without basically, frankly, bankrupting the city.”

WATCH BELOW (Aired May 28, 2019): Some Grand Forks residents unable to return home one year after devastating floods

Some Grand Forks residents unable to return home one year after devastating floods
Some Grand Forks residents unable to return home one year after devastating floods

Taylor said if the properties were to be bought out at pre-flood value, the extra hit would be $6 million.

“That’s an estimate, obviously, but give or take,” he said. “Which is more than the people of Grand Forks, in general, can handle as a debt. We’re not in a position where we can promise that money.”