The city of Merritt has updated the final phases of its Return Home Plan, allowing more residents in Phase 3 and 4 to go back home.
There is still growing frustration from property owners who are just now being allowed to go home or still aren’t able to.
Merritt resident, Albert Gartner, said the situation is “devastating.” He returned to his home in phase 4.
“What a mess. I just got back this weekend, and everything was frozen. There’s mud at the bottom of the stairs, and I couldn’t even shovel out,” Gartner said.
Another resident, Beth Nadeau, said it looks like “a cyclone hit her home.”
Nadeau said she is not too pleased with the way city officials have handled the evacuation; she said she believes that if residents had been allowed back sooner, it would have prevented some damage.
“I had no information,” Nadeau said. “I don’t even know if my water is on or off. I don’t know how to get ahold of anybody to get the water off if it is on. If the pipes burst and thaw again then I’ll have more water in my basement and I don’t even know how to contact anybody about it.”
Deputy mayor Kurt Christopherson addressed concerns surrounding the talk of “a secret council meeting,” saying the meeting has not been closed to the public.
“We are still under COVID restrictions, so there will be a limit of who can be in there. It is not a secret — there is a zoom option for council meetings,” Christopherson said.
The updated evacuation order has been reduced to 362 properties. Some properties have been removed at the request of the owners.
“We are asking people who have had the electrical and gas inspectors in and who have water and sewer, to inform us at the Resiliency Centre,” said Alan Stebbing, information officer for Merritt Emergency Operations Centre.
“We will remove them from the evacuation order once their homes are livable. The big piece is that we want to keep the evacuation order in place so that if people need support, those supports are available to them to make sure they have a roof over their head.”
Properties under the evacuation order have been identified as either having structural damage or utilities damage caused by flooding.
The city is continuing to rebuild critical infrastructure that was damaged during the flood. There is no timeline as to when these projects will be completed, and the evacuation order will be lifted.
Residents who remain under evacuation order are eligible for day access between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
–with files from Jules Knox