Princeton Mayor calls on senior governments to 'put their money where their mouth is' and step up funding to help

Mayor to gov't: step up

The mayor of Princeton is calling on the provincial and federal governments to step up and help the communities that have been devastated by flooding.

Mayor Spencer Coyne was rushing to organize evacuation orders and try to stabilize the area after the Tulameen River flooded on Sunday.

Four days after the devastating events, the town is still working to put gas, electricity and water back on for the community. Houses are slowly being emptied out in the area, completely destroyed by the flood waters.

“The power of that water, how fast it was moving was unbelievable,” Coyne said. “It was 12 feet of water breaking through our dikes and flooding through town.”

“It's hard to put into words exactly what that was like, because it's something that we've never experienced before. And we're used to floods.”

While the area has dealt with fires, floods and natural disasters before, Coyne said it's getting harder to plan for as the events get stronger. Right now, he’s focused on getting things done day-by-day.

“The number one priority is getting things fixed so in the spring, we don't have a repeat of this,” he said.

“We're getting those dikes back in place and trying to make them as strong as we can... Next step is, how do we make it better? So this never happens again.”

The good news is that the water is filling up a reservoir again and the repair team has found holes that they have been able to patch along the dike.

"We're not out of the woods yet. We are still in an emergency situation, because we have a do not consume water in place. The sewer system is not out of the red yet. We're getting there, but we're not there. We are right on that cusp between good and bad and hopefully we're going towards the good side instead of the bad side."

Coyne said he was ‘over the moon’ after he heard on Thursday that FortisBC could start work on repairs for the area.

“It's imperative that we are able to get that gas running and get heat back in houses and get those assessments done so people can move in and if nothing else, just pump the water out and get their heat going so there's not more damage.”

While the town’s team works with the agencies to get repairs moving forward, there’s more help needed to rebuild the town.

“We're going to need the province, and we're going to need the federal government to step up, put their money where their mouth is, and help these people. Because that's the only way we're going to get through this.”

“With Abbotsford now, and the state they're in, and I'm not sure how much water is still in Merritt, but this isn't going away tomorrow. If it warms up tomorrow, we're going to be back where we are today because it's been snowing up high.”

Coyne said that while governments may reach out, extend messages of support, they truly need to be able to be ready to put the money in the place where it needs to be.

“We always hear about it, ‘We're going to help.' This time we're going to have to see help and not six months, not two years down the road. We need it now. Look at what's happened to all the people that are still out of their houses from the fires.”

With a population of 3,000 people, the municipality's budget does not cover the level of devastation and emergency repairs.

A total of 295 properties have been placed under evacuation order and many of those homes have already been condemned.

“The government should be planning right now. How are they going to help us and how are they going to get the money to us so we can rebuild? Because two years, three years? It's not an answer. You can't rebuild your community if half of it is displaced or still trying to find a place to stay tonight,” he added.

“So help us fund it. Help us fix it. And don't put a whole bunch of red tape in the way. Let us do our jobs and do it right.”

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