The city of Toronto on Thursday unveiled its $75-million plan to clean up and repair the thousands of downed tree limbs and branches scattered throughout city streets after the massive ice storm wreaked havoc in December.
City crews are set to begin cleaning up neighbourhoods on Friday in a process that could take about six to eight weeks, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee.
Mr. Minnan-Wong also estimated the cost of cleaning up the debris would be about $25-million, while the price of maintaining and repairing the city’s tree canopy would come in at about $50-million, totalling a $75-million price tag for the city.
According to Mr. Minnan-Wong, 600 city staff and contractors will begin working in every ward across the city for 12-hours per day, seven days a week to get the city cleaned up.
The work will be split between three-person crews cleaning up debris from roadsides, while two-person forestry crews will work to clear hanging tree limbs that could fall on roads, sidewalks or power lines.
Based on the volume of calls received in terms of downed trees, some areas in each ward will be prioritized and once they are completed crews will move on to other areas, said Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
Mr. Kelly also said clean-up will be carried out “as quickly and effectively as possible.”
Mayor Rob Ford, who was not originally scheduled to be at the announcement, reminded residents to pile tree debris on their curb for crews to pick up, adding that crews will pick up debris from private trees if it is six inches in diameter or less.
“Tomorrow we are moving into the debris clean-up phase, this is a major effort,” he said.
Mayor Ford once again thanked officials for working throughout the holidays to restore power to citizens and also thanked city residents.
“I am so proud to say Toronto residents pulled together and got us through these difficult times. We would have not been able to do this ourselves,” Mr. Ford said.
Jim Harnum, Toronto’s general manager of solid waste, said residents that have loose branches larger than six inches in diameter would need to hire a private contractor.
Mr. Harnum also said crews would collect debris and chip it on the spot and transport it to one of 15 designated sites across the city.
City officials were unable to estimate the total damage to Toronto’s tree canopy, but after the press conference Mr. Kelly did say the damage could threaten the city’s environmental goals.
“This is a real setback to the environmental initiatives of the city of Toronto because one of our primary goals is to grow the canopy,” Mr. Kelly said. “Now we’re going to have to not only invest money in growing the canopy, but invest more money than anticipated in keeping what we have in good health.”
Toronto Hydro has not yet released its total cost, but Tanya Bruckmueller, a spokesperson with Toronto Hydro, said the estimate is $1-million for every day of the storm.
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