City seeks better ways of communicating

Tyler Clarke
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Residents of the Northcote Manor have been under a boil water order since May 7, and are expected to remain under it for another four to five days. Despite the inconvenience, they seem fairly positive about their situation. 

This spring thaw season’s record-breaking 95 water main breaks will serve as a lesson learned for future years in how to better communicate with the public.


A key example comes about with the 103-unit downtown high-rise Northcote Manor, which has been under a boil water order for 20 days and counting.

On Tuesday, a handful of residents gathered on the main floor for an early afternoon coffee, appearing fairly upbeat about being under a boil water order.

“They’re doing the best they can,” resident Grace Erickson said of the city, with a shrug. “It’s just sort of an inconvenience, that’s all.”

Aside from the loss of one pot she wasn’t paying close enough attention to while on the burner, she’s not worse for wear by the boil water order.

A handful of residents listening in on Erickson’s comments chimed in their own support for the city.

“I always buy bottled water anyway,” resident Jennie Mourot noted. “I never do drink tap water.”

The small group of seniors who gathered for coffee row concluded that Mayor Greg Dionne’s updates have kept them abreast of the situation.

“He comes in often,” Erickson said, adding that during his latest visit on Saturday residents told him about the ongoing boil water order.

“He got on it right then, even, he got someone on the phone,” Erickson said.

Contacted by phone later in the afternoon, Dionne concluded that “an informed community is a happy community.”

“Whenever there’s an issue there I always make sure they’re informed,” he said. “I just go there on a regular basis to make sure they’re updated.”

As the area’s ward councillor for nine years before becoming mayor, Dionne said that he’s always tried to keep his ward’s residents up to date.

“I believe it’s our responsibility to notify our people in our ward and not just have it always on the city, because at the end of the day that’s who we represent,” he said.

Not everyone in the city has been kept up to date, with a handful of city councillors noting at Monday’s meeting that they’ve taken a number of phone calls from concerned residents since water main break season began with the spring thaw.

“I’m hearing more and more of it takes two to three and sometimes up to four weeks to get that water main fixed and have water turned on to these people’s homes,” Coun. Ted Zurakowski said.

They’re doing the best they can. Grace Erickson

“I’m hopeful we can flesh out an adequate system where people can reach out to the city.”

Within the next month, Dionne hopes to see administration draft a policy that will better keep residents in the loop when something’s amiss with their utility services.

“Things can happen in the summer, too, so we should have a permanent 365 days a year communication policy,” he said.

Weekly updates with realistic timelines would be a move in the right direction, he said, noting that if residents know when they can expect their water service to return they can better prepare for the interim.

This information has been missing this water main break season, a handful of councillors told administration at Monday’s meeting.

“They know we don’t control the water breaks, but they can’t understand why we can’t keep them abreast of it,” Dionne said.

The boil water order at Northcote Manor is expected to lift within the next four to five days.

The order would have been lifted a while ago if not for a mix-up at the public works department with testing the water quality, public works director Colin Innes said.

At Monday’s meeting, Innes apologized on behalf of the department for the mix-up.

“There’s a first sample that you have to take, but there are two confirmatory samples that you have to take for you to be able to rescind the notice,” he explained on Tuesday.

“With all the work that the guys were doing with the breaks that we’ve been having, they missed the second sample and so it’s totally our miss on our end and we regret that’s happened; but that’s the issue.

“We’re expecting everything to be fine, we just need that sample before we can rescind the notice.”

The Northcote Manor residents who gathered for Tuesday afternoon’s coffee row said that they look forward to seeing the boil water order lifted in the near future.

“It’s just aggravating, that’s all,” Erickson said. “It’ll be nice when we don’t have to worry about it.

“If that’s the only thing we had to complain about it wouldn’t be so bad, would it?”

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page