A helicopter lifts off from the Hope Golf Club on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 with evacuees. Helicopters were used to drop supplies and bring people out of the town, which was cut off from the province due to landslides on all surrounding roads. Some were paying private companies to be evacuated. (Virginia White photo)

A helicopter lifts off from the Hope Golf Club on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 with evacuees. Helicopters were used to drop supplies and bring people out of the town, which was cut off from the province due to landslides on all surrounding roads. Some were paying private companies to be evacuated. (Virginia White photo)

District of Hope questioned over decision to forego ESS grants

Critics say cots, generators and other supplies had to be flown in to Hope during November flooding

For locals wondering if the District of Hope will apply for the 2022 Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) Emergency Support Services grant, the answer is no.

And that answer isn’t sitting well with the Hope Citizens Emergency Disaster Planning Committee (HCEDPC).

The most recent District of Hope council meeting came and went Jan. 24 with no resolution of support for the grant application. The deadline to apply for the grant passed four days later, on Friday (Jan. 28).

According to the UBCM website, the $25,000 grant is intended to “support eligible applicants to build local capacity to provide emergency support services through volunteer recruitment, retention and training, including in-house training, and the purchase of ESS equipment.”

HCEDPC spokesperson Sharlene Hinds said the money could have been used to buy supplies that seemed to be in short supply during November’s flooding, including cots, blankets and generators.

“It’s free money. It’s preparation money and for whatever reason this community was not prepared,” she said. “Why not get the help that’s there to buy supplies?”

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Hinds said that during the mid-November flooding, Hope secondary school (HSS) and Grace Baptist Church opened up as impromptu shelters for locals and stranded travellers, and both locations lacked proper supplies.

“Cots got flown in the day after everybody left,” Hinds noted. “If I have a leak in my roof, I’m not going to say no to money to repair it. I’ll worry about that later. What’s important is there’s water pouring into my home and I need help. If I have to get it from the government, so be it. If I have to get it from somebody else, so be it, but while I’m debating who to get it from, my house is being destroyed.”

Tom DeSorcy, Fire Chief at the District of Hope Fire Department and the district’s Emergency Program Coordinator, said it’s not as simple as ‘take the free money.’

“Going through the grant process, accepting the money if we do get it, and now having to take on a project to acquire all this equipment, and to find a place to put it and look after it, that takes a staff person and it takes time,” he said. “You now have to move a staff member away from operations or somewhere else to take on this project. If the stuff ends up packed away in a Sea Can for five years, 10 years and never gets used, what happens to it?”

“At the time it sounds great, but then you’ve got to manage it, report on it, follow purchasing policies. Unfortunately, in a small municipality it’s time we don’t have.”

DeSorcy said the District of Hope is staffed by a small and dedicated group whose plates are completely full, joking that the corners of their desks don’t have corners anymore.

“We’re not Vancouver. If we had a larger municipality, it’d be great to do a lot of things,” he said. “You have to have partnerships to do this sort of thing together. If we can, it’s something to work on, but to do it as a knee-jerk reaction because the public wants us to is going to detract from something else that really needs to be done.”

Hinds said the HCEDPC understands the challenges of running a small municipality, and they understand that District of Hope staffers have their hands full.

“We know they have a lot to take care of and we want to volunteer our time and energy to help,” she said. “We don’t want their jobs and we don’t want to interfere with what they’re doing. We want to ease the burden. There’s money out there to buy cots, blankets and generators. Can we find a storage place? Hell yeah, we’ll find a storage place.

“But right now we’re volunteering to help and we’re being told they don’t need our help.”


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@hopestandard.com

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