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Princeton mayor 'really frustrated' by flood cleanup bureaucracy

Mayor Spencer Coyne feels higher levels of government are not pulling their weight or acting fast enough to help residents.

“One day at a time, you can’t plan for tomorrow.”

Residents are cleaning up throughout Princeton after devastating floods, unsure of what is to come next, shovelling the dirt from their homes and making piles of ruined furniture and personal belongings along roadways.

Water was still off for well over 100 homes on Tuesday, according to Mayor Spencer Coyne, since the damage to all four water mains is substantial and pressure is not returning properly.

The town is still utilizing fire hydrants and hose connections to deliver water, but it's not clean enough for residents to use.

“It's one thing after another ... we're just hoping for a day off, so that we don't have to deal with another emergency at this point,” Coyne said.

On Tuesday morning, the town dealt with a house fire, which became a real challenge since the water system is still down on the entire north side of town.

“They don't have fire protection, they can't flush the toilet, they can't have a shower or even wash [their] dishes. So they're having to bring water in by the buckets to do just the basic things in life."

As the town fights to recover, the biggest thing Coyne wants to see is humanitarian relief brought in by federal armed forces to help move the ruined property out of homes before winter sets in.

“People are trying to get their homes back in order. So you know, if we had them here to help those people get that out of their homes, we could get it all out,” he said.

“We can get restoration companies in, we can get inspectors in, you can get your gas back and the heat, but none of these people have power or gas, or even water, because we have to have inspectors in and in order to get to all that you have to be able to get in the house and you can't get in the house if all that stuff's sitting there.“

Resident Mario Loutef has close to nothing left inside of his home near downtown. He is working on pulling wood off the walls and trying to dry out the insulation that was soaked from three feet of water.

He’s lost everything in the flood. Much of his home is sitting out on the front sidewalk. When he returned after escaping the floodwaters two days after the incident, he didn’t recognize what he came home to.

“I was lost. It didn't seem like my house. It didn't seem real. I thought it was just a bad dream,” Loutef said.

“All week I've been working every day, non-stop, clearing up all the personal stuff and throwing that outside. It's a big loss.”

Another Princeton resident shared a similar story.

“It was hard to get into the house because everything was in the way of the door. I guess when the water got in, it accidentally brought a bunch of junk to the back of the house,” Tim Burns said.

“I'm just gonna clean out the rest of the stuff that is any good in here and pretty well just lock the door and leave.”

While piles of ruined furniture stand in the streets, Mayor Coyne also asks for patience when it comes to bringing everything to the dump and disposing of it properly.

“We have to make sure everything's buried properly and taken care of properly and that all has to be done according to the rules... because if we don't, it's gonna cost us money in the long run and the province is just going to fine us and tell us to fix it. And where are we gonna get the money for that?”

Residents want to see action from senior governments, as answers as to what is available feel limited and they worry about repairs to their community.

Speaking at a media briefing Tuesday afternoon, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said that his staff has been in "regular touch with the community of Princeton."

Farnworth stated that the repair of civic infrastructure, specifically roads and bridges, is a cost that will be covered by the province. He did not directly answer a question from the press as to whether he has asked the federal government to send army resources to Princeton.

“In terms of requests for additional resources, they are obviously being assessed and what help is needed is being provided,” Farnworth said.

“We have been working very closely with the administration in Princeton to ensure that just like other communities they will be able to get back on their feet."

But Coyne feels the higher governments are not pulling their weight or acting fast enough to help residents.

“I'm really frustrated with the levels of bureaucracy that are just holding us back at this point,” he said, adding that the emergency dike repairs are getting increasingly exhausting with regulations and temporary solutions.

“There's no little community in the world that is prepared for the scale of what's happening out here. And we're being told to figure it out. I can figure it out. Give me the money, and I'll do it. But if you're not going to give me the money, then you need to stand out of my way and let me do it.”