The frustrations that come with trying to recover from a devastating flood bubbled to the surface at a meeting of Roche Percee residents Thursday.
The meeting, which was held in Estevan, was scheduled by the Roche Percee village council to provide those displaced by the June floods with an update on the recovery efforts and what plans are being made for the future of the village.
However, with little information forthcoming, the anger of those in attendance boiled over with people lashing out in numerous directions.
Much of the venom was directed towards the provincial government and agencies such as the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program and Sask. Watershed Authority as a number of residents are experiencing problems in negotiating a settlement for their property and also in getting answers about what they plan to do to ensure a flood of this magnitude does not happen again.
The media was also on the firing line as some felt the reports on the recovery efforts in Roche Percee have not accurately portrayed the level of difficulty they are encountering as they attempt to return to some form of normality.
"People think we got these big payouts and we are fine. We are not fine," said one of the attendees. "We're in the shit, all of us."
Gary Musselman, who lost his home in the June flood, said he and his fellow residents are upset not only with the lack of progress but also that decisions and demands are being made without any consultation with them and officials from the village.
"There are a lot of people who haven't settled. I actually talked to people here tonight that haven't even got an offer yet," said Musselman. "It just seems like they are making all these decisions and they haven't even dealt with us yet. It just seems like nobody really wants to deal with the people on the ground here.
"We are the ones with the skin in this game, we are the ones that have the losses."
Musselman said his dealings with PDAP were initially positive, but he and others have since had difficulty getting the answers they need to move on with their lives.
"People have lost their homes. People are hugely frustrated and I know many feel we have been taken out of the equation here. They are making decisions on this, that and the other thing but nobody is consulting with us. Why isn't there somebody at this meeting tonight with some kind of authority? It's unfair to the village council to have them trying to answer. They don't have the answers to these questions and I think they have done as much as they can do. They don't have the money. It almost seems to me like this is a stalling tactic. They are waiting people out because people have already moved and maybe they are hoping eventually they won't be that concerned."
Musselman said many in Roche Percee are also seeking more information from the watershed authority about the events that led to this year's floods and the future of the area.
"I wish the watershed would step up and say if they can't guarantee safety in that valley then they have to say this land is not fit for residential development and at that point they have to either buy us out or make some sort of settlement."
A portion of Thursday's discussion centred on whether or not the village should rebuild the dike that was destroyed during the flood. With only two residences likely to be rebuilt on the flood plain, there were many who felt the roughly $600,000 it would cost to fix the dike could be better spent helping those who lost their homes. However, they were informed that money is only for the dike reconstruction and cannot be spent elsewhere, a comment which served to further enrage the crowd.
"We're getting hosed here," yelled a member of the audience.
Roche Percee Mayor Reg Jahn said he feels that no one should ever live in a flood plain and that rebuilding the dike would be a waste of money and effort.
"It's a beautiful place and it could be turned into an RV park," said Jahn. "(Building the dike) would be a waste. There is no way that development should ever be allowed in a flood plain."
Jahn said the next step for the village is to arrange a meeting with government officials from the watershed and PDAP. Although he noted much of government has ground to a halt because of the election, he would like to see someone who can provide answers meet with the council and residents.
In the meantime, the village is looking at plans for the future. With many of those who lost their home expressing a desire to stay in Roche Percee but not on the flood plain, council is working on plans for a new subdivision at the top of the hill on the southernmost point of the village.
Jahn noted they are in the process of purchasing 10 acres of land which he estimates would provide them with room for roughly 20 lots.
"We need more land than that. We need to develop at least another 60 acres over and above the 10," he said. "One of the nice things about Roche Percee is our lot sizes are pretty good. We want lots that have 100 feet of frontage and are a minimum of 175-feet deep so you can't reach out and touch your neighbor."
Jahn said he has spoken to developers and the general feeling is it will be one year before homes are ready to be inhabited but that timeframe could be reduced if a modular home was constructed.