There are a number of words and phrases that can be used to describe the current state of affairs in the community of Roche Percee, but satisfied isn't one of them.
The village's administrator, Lyndon Stachoski, said that there is some “behind the scenes work going on” but as far as the general population is concerned, it probably looked more like everything “was in a holding pattern.” And it's been that way for about a year now. The anniversary date of last year's major flood has now passed.
Commonwealth Group, a lobbying firm, is helping the village prepare a proposal for a plebiscite to be held and so far about 75 per cent of the residents who used to live in the village on the flood plain floor have indicated a willingness to exchange their lower level properties for some land above the flood plain. But the lobbyists fear that this mandate is not strong enough to take to the provincial ministry and enable them to sell a proposal.
So while the village population appears to be split on what they want, Commonwealth and village officials will continue to look for a more unanimous consensus among the current population.
“Even with the 75 per cent, we're hearing that the exchange is not that fair ... the proposed new lots are much smaller than what they had before on the valley floor and they are telling us that this was one major reason they moved here, so they could have the larger space,” said Stachoski.
Commonwealth and the village officials have met with the coal company Mancal because they own 40 acres around the village and are willing to sacrifice some of that land so that sizable lots might be developed, perhaps into one-third acre packages. The land is available at a reasonable price, at least by today's standards, the administrator said.
In the meantime, the bid for relief funding from the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) isn't moving forward that quickly and Stachoski said that he had heard that PDAP has informed the government that they've pretty well done their share and carried out their due diligence while the village is saying “no you haven't.”
“There are discussions about the province investing $5.4 million to rebuild the protective dike and the village and Commonwealth are saying, 'spend that amount in property development above the flood plain,' ” said Stachoski. “So there are issues to be settled yet.”
Commonwealth could be switching strategies in an attempt to deal directly with the ministry, but then there has been a recent ministerial shuffle and there are several agencies that have to be included in the process starting with the original group at the Ministry of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing (from which PDAP sprang) and working through the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Municipal Affairs, to name a few.
So Roche Percee and its 38 damaged and destroyed homes, lost recreation centre and civic landmarks remain in the aforementioned holding pattern and that includes the lives of families that were directly impacted by the fierce floods of last summer.
“It's a problem that's not going away,” said Stachoski in conclusion.