The region has been experiencing record-setting levels of rising water this spring which has caused structural damage to many of the major roads north of the Kenora bypass.
By mid-May 2022, the City of Kenora had issued an evacuation order for many of the residents who live north of the bypass due to the unsafe road and flood conditions.
The major flooding awoke a voice from large groups of residents who own property north of the bypass who expressed their displeasure with the City's efforts to prevent such disasters from happening. They have raised complaints about the high amounts of taxes most residents pay when in return, in their opinion, they receive less allocated funding, subpar quality of road work, and lack of city services.
At a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, members of the North of the Bypass Property Owners group shared their thoughts with Kenora City Council.
Susan Cone acted as a representative for the group, delivering the group's message through a carefully worded speech to the council, “I am representing approximately 800 property owners who live within the City of Kenora who [live] north of the bypass.”
“The residents of the area north of the bypass are bringing forward complaints today, which include lack of representation on Council, poor road conditions, and inability to secure timely repairs, accurate information, and access to information.”
One of the major criticisms the group brought to the floor was that it appeared as though some roads in the evacuation zone had been built/maintained to a standard that was not apparent in all other roads – leaving to question whether or not the city staff had done proper inspections on all the required roads.
Cone suggested that the City of Kenora could have chosen to lift the potentially dangerous roads rather than wait till they got bad enough to require an evacuation, “This year, the roads department could have lifted the roads and made them safe to travel without creating an evacuation order.”
“A local road builder stated that they called the City to give them an estimate and stated that they could get people back in their homes immediately. They reported that they spoke with an engineer at the City at least three times over the month and never heard back on their offers to repair the roads.”
“The roads could have been made safe much earlier than they were without the residents north of the bypass needing to phone, complain, beg, harass their council, mayor and roads department.”
Cone also pointed out that the inadequate road conditions also posed a risk for any emergency situations as detours would cause significantly longer wait times and because some of the vehicles may not have even fit down the narrow conditions of some of the roads.
She continued to give multiple examples of roads that had been neglected or improperly fixed. She pointed out that not only have hundreds of families' lives been interrupted by the evacuation but businesses that call north of the bypass home have also been affected.
“Hidden Trails Resort pays $13,000 a year in city taxes and is still not being supplied with a date to have access (to their resort).”
“City tax revenue on Williams Road, about 20 houses and some vacant land, is $170,000 yearly. When residents called the City Roads department for dust retardant, they were told ‘sorry, not in the budget.’ This has happened repeatedly.”
“Residents are not being treated respectfully and we need the council to intervene. The City of Kenora’s pamphlet states that the entire budget for dust retardant is $40,000, I think Williams Road is paying for that many times over.”
To conclude their time in front of Kenora City Council, Cone shared that the group had three requests. The group is requesting that Council supply property owners' names and addresses north of the Kenora bypass which is legally public record. They would like to see the total tax revenue for all of the properties north of the bypass, also public records. And thirdly, they would like one Kenora City Councilor to volunteer to look out for the rights of the property owners' group.
The group also stated that they would like to see Council develop a three-year road update plan for the major access roads to the north.