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‘Thank you very much’

Posted on April 14, 2022 by Maple Creek

Linemen enjoy dinner at Cobble Creek Lodge

The man who spearheaded the Town of Maple Creek’s response to the April 5 storm that knocked out power lines across the region had this message for the community: “Thank you very much.”
Councillor Len Barkman, deputy mayor, said those four words inspired by Elvis Presley could only begin to express the Town’s immense gratitude for the way that the community pulled together.
“Words cannot necessarily express all that everybody has done,” he said at Tuesday evening’s Town Council meeting.
“So many people have helped during this time after the spring storm.
“I am not going to list them, because if I list them I’m going to miss somebody.”
Councillor Barkman went on to say that lessons would be learned from the crisis.
This included addressing the lack of generators for the water treatment plant and wells.
The snowstorm wreaked havoc across Southwest Saskatchewan, leaving thousands of SaskPower customers without power. Affected areas included Maple Creek, Eastend, Cypress Hills, Fort Walsh, Nekaneet, Hatton, Golden Prairie and Piapot.
Most Maple Creek business were forced to close. The schools also shut for two to three days.
Linemen from all over the region took part in a massive week-long operation to restore power. Up to 22 crews from as far away as Manitoba took part.
Initially, it was estimated that 200 to 300 poles had been knocked down. Now it is believed the true number is about 900.
On Monday, Cobble Creek Lodge, Town of Maple Creek, Nekaneet, The Daily Grind, Betty Abbott Realty, Rafter T Brewing and Maple Creek Salvation Army hosted a thank you supper for SaskPower and associated crews who helped fix and replace power lines. The event at Cobble Creek Lodge was attended by as many as 100 people.
Despite the devastation to power lines wrought by the storm, Councillor Barkman said people could be thankful that outside temperatures were not -35.
“We would have had a lot of different scenarios to deal with,” he said, adding that the lengthy power outages had resulted in renewed appreciation of electricity.
“We are very thankful that the power has pretty well all been restored in the affected areas. When weather throws a challenge into a community – and I’ve seen this even in my life – the community comes together, and I think that’s what’s so needed.
“I guess I want to emphasize the word community, because I think that’s really important here. This affected our community – the Town of Maple Creek, the RM of Maple Creek, Nekaneet, the surrounding areas. We are a community. We got through this by working together.”
Councillor Barkman, who has written a report to Council on the spring storm, headed’s the Town’s emergency response because Michelle McKenzie, the mayor, was in Regina, attending a four-day convention of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.
Others in the emergency response team were Dalyce Hammer, financial assistant for the Town, who was appointed interim chief executive officer, effective March 7, while Kerrie Chabot is away); Councillors Betty Abbott and Al Fournier; Tony Goode, the interim chief administrative officer; Gillian Moch, economic development officer; and Savannah Mass, communications and tourism manager.
The team met on Tuesday, April 5 at the Town Office before moving to the Community Fire Hall, which has a generator.
One of the first decisions was to impose water restrictions after power went out at the water treatment plant.
“I need to say especially a big, big thank you to our residents of Maple Creek that really came through with flying colours in regards to water restrictions that we put on,” said Councillor Barkman.
He added that said the Town’s water treatment plant, which serves local properties and businesses, normally puts out 12 to 15 litres of water every second.
During restrictions imposed after the storm, however, the levels came down to six litres per second.
“We were pretty almost less than half of what we normally use,” he said. “So, a huge, big thanks to our community for abiding by that.”
Water pressure also went down during the emergency, said Councillor Barkman.
Normal pressure on the lines is 40-42 pounds. During the emergency it stayed at 36-37, because of the amount in the reserve, which never went below 60 per cent.
Councillor Barkman did point to one concern: If another emergency had arisen – such as a big house fire – the municipality’s water supplies could have run out.
“Our pumper truck can pump out 4,000 litres per minute,” said Councillor Barkman.
It had been deemed crucial, therefore, that a generator be connected to the water treatment plant.
“We were thankful to have a generator from Calgary here within 24 hours that we were able to hook up to our treatment plant and was able to get it up and going again. But the issue still remained that our wells were offline. So, before we could really be processing any water, we needed to get some pumps going.
“We were in the process of getting our pumps on generators. We had one of them on a generator, and we were in the process of putting the second and a third one on a generator, when SaskPower comes along and begins to hook us back up, which we were very, very thankful for.”
Councillor Barkman said the key question was this: What lessons can be learned from the emergency?
“Well, there are always lessons to learn. If we stop learning, we never prepare ourselves.”
He added that recommendations would be coming forward for changes, especially to address the lack of generators for the water treatment plant and wells.
Councillor Barkman said the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency had played a critical role in supplying the town and surrounding areas with generators.
“It was tremendous to have that,” he said.
Councillor Barkman said he was glad to live in a town like Maple Creek.
”We have got some great people that are there when you need them to be there. Again, thank you very much.”
Referring to Councillor Barkman’s written report, Councillor Tina Cresswell said it was amazing how much was done in the three or four days after the storm hit.
“The thing that struck me the most was that the weight of the generator at the water treatment plant was 18,000 pounds. They had to check the ground to make sure it could support the generator before they could even offload it.”
Councillor Cara Teichroeb said it was fortunate that the community did not experience January temperatures during the power outages.
It was also fortunate that there was no fire, injuries or deaths during the crisis.
“So, there are so many blessings within that emergency,” Councillor Teichroeb added.
Councillor Al Fournier praised Councillor Barkman’s “tremendous leadership” in heading the response to the power cuts.
“Thanks to everyone for pitching in,” he said.
Councillor Jill Roy said she is constantly amazed by the resilience of the community, and how quickly people support one another.
“Everybody worked well as a team.”
Councillor Roy said she had spoken one-on-one with residents, who really appreciated that personal approach.
Referring to the water restrictions and challenges in keeping the water treatment plant and wells running, she said that the storm and its aftermath had been a learning experience.
“I want to echo the thanks,” said Michelle McKenzie, the mayor. “I don’t know how to even articulate how thankful I am to the community that we all live in.”
She said the “spring storm crew” headed by Councillor Barkman did an “awesome job”.
McKenzie went on to salute the efforts of Town staff and Doug Steele, MLA for Cypress Hills it helping with the relief effort.
Tony Goode, the interim chief administrative officer, wished to commend the public for their cooperation.
“In my past life I’ve experienced a few emergencies like this, specifically in BC. I was really impressed how Council and staff came together. It was first-class.”
The issue of the storm was raised again during the “Mayor and Councillors Forum” segment of the meeting.
Councillor Fournier read a list of shout-outs for those who helped with the disaster response: Councillor Barkman for his leadership; Gavin Graves, the Town’s director of operations, and the Public Works crew; Andrew Hecker, public works operator at the water treatment plant; Kelly Keslick and the Parks and Recreation crew; Town Office staff and Council members; Brad Drever and his crew, who distributed leaflets; Blaine Becker, the fire chief, and other firefighters, who distributed meals; Major Ed Dean, from The Salvation Army, and his team of volunteers; Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency; the whole community, the RM of Maple Creek, Nekaneet, and businesses.
McKenzie said the “thank you” dinner for linemen had been great.
She added that Kevin Lalonde, SaskPower’s area director of distribution operations and maintenance, wanted to thank Maple Creek for the way it welcomed the line crews,
“He really wants that message to go out – to thank the community for all we did for them.”
After the meeting, McKenzie told the News-Times said: “We want to thank everybody for what they did.”
She said the power outages had brought the area together, including the RM and Nekaneet.
Councillor Barkman said a neighbourly spirit came to the fore during the crisis.
“There were neighbours who took generators to neighbours,” said Councillor Barkman. Neighbours who went to check on neighbours and looked after them. That is a community thing to me.”

Hope for provincial disaster funds

Maple Creek residents who suffered losses from the April 5 storm may be able to get funds under the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP).
Town Council has agreed to apply to the Ministry of Government Relations to be designated an “eligible assistance area” under the program.
The aim is for the program to provide financial assistance for restoring essential services and property as a result of substantive damages caused by the storm.
Tony Goode, interim chief administrative officer, said that claims for assistance could be submitted provided the designation is approved.
Unfortunately, the Town would not be able to make any claims because of a $250,000 deductible, said Goode. However, the good news is that any of the Maple Creek citizens that have incurred damages or expenses will be able to fill in claim forms.
“It’s actually a pretty positive program,” Goode said, adding that hopefully people will get a “little bit of cash” out of it.
According to the Saskatchewan government website, PDAP helps residents, small businesses, agricultural operations, First Nations, non-profit organizations and communities recover from natural disasters, including flooding, tornadoes, plow winds and other disasters caused by severe weather. It may help cover the cost of uninsurable essential losses, cleanup, repairs and temporary relocation.

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