During the evening of Saturday, February 9, a waterline break flooded the ditch in the area of Ataage and Ojibwe Drive affecting a power transformer and causing around 40 homes to lose power.
Assistant Commissioner of Administration Baabiitaw Boyd was notified of the situation and contacted Tribal Emergency Management Coordinator Monte Fronk to mobilize a response to provide temporary shelter and food for displaced Band members.
The Tribal Emergency Response Committee (TERC) was partially activated with members from Administration, Emergency Management, Community Development, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, and Public Information Staff. The District I Community Center was opened as a temporary shelter providing warmth and food to those affected.
As information came in that the power was not going be reestablished that night, the Mille Lacs Band Emergency Operations Plan came into effect. Tables and chairs were set up at the community center, and snacks and beverages were provided by Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures.
Fortunately there were enough rooms available at the Band's hotels to meet the temporary housing needs of those displaced. The Red Cross was also on standby for sleeping cots if needed.
The community center was staffed by Community Development, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, and Tribal Emergency Management until 4 a.m. Sunday morning. Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures provided shuttle rides to the community center.
Throughout this process, Government Affairs staff were posting updates through the Band media outlets on the repairs and shelter operations, and Tribal Police were going door-to-door checking on families and Elders who lived on the affected streets to make sure they were aware of the shelter and the availability of rides and meals.
On Sunday morning at 7:30, Community Development, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, and Tribal Emergency Management arrived back at the District I Community Center to set up for breakfast.
Tribal public works staff and equipment were hard at work at the water line break all day Sunday to lower the water so the power transformer could be replaced by Mille Lacs Electric.
Families who were housed at the hotels returned to the center not only for breakfast but also for lunch as the repair work continued during the day. Just after 4 p.m. the hard efforts of the Band’s Public Works Department staff and Mille Lacs Electric were able to reestablish power to those homes.
Knowing that it would take many hours for those homes to warm up properly, it was decided to provide one more night of temporary housing at Band hotels so Elders and families with young children would be safe and warm for the night. A final dinner was provided at 6 p.m. on Sunday for displaced families before the District I Community Center was demobilized.
On Monday, February 11, Commissioner of Corporate Affairs Joe Nayquonabe thanked Commissioner of Community Development Percy Benjamin and his Public Works staff for responding quickly and effectively.
Percy returned the thanks, saying the Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures team, led by Sarah Barten, went above and beyond to keep people safe, warm, and well fed.
He also thanked the Tribal Police Department, Emergency Management Coordinator Monte Fronk, and the Administration Department.
“If it wasn't for help from Monte (Fronk) and Sarah (Barten), it would’ve been a lot harder,“ Percy said.
Photo: Families affected by the power outage found food, warmth, and support at the District I Community Center.