Water Donation by Richard Maxwell

By  | July 12, 2012 | 10 Comments | Filed under: Politics

Like most people in this fair city of ours, I have never had occasion to contact my city councilperson for any particular issues, even though I’m one of the minority that makes it a point to vote in municipal elections. However, my non-activist days it seems, are numbered. We have lived here for about 22 years and circumstances being what they are, my wife and I rented a home last July and paid the city a “deposit” of $230 to have the water turned on at our residence. Unlike many of the comments that I have read in the Times regarding the horrors associated with the City assuming ownership for water billing, I have had no problems at all. Until recently.
As we are coming up to the end of the first year in our house, I recently contacted the Water Department to inquire as to when we would be receiving our deposit back, or if it would be applied to our bill. You can imagine my surprise when I was told that as long as we remained a tenant in Cambridge, we would never receive our deposit back unless we either bought a house, or moved out of Cambridge. I assumed that I simply misunderstood their response and that surely something was lost in translation so I contacted our local councilperson to clarify the situation. He basically quoted me verbatim what the Water Department had already said and then added some erroneous information on his own as to what the deposit was for (you really don’t want to know).
Now, normally, that would be the end of my queries, I’d roll over and play dead to appease everyone, particularly our councilperson. But, I then contacted the Office of the Ombudsman for Ontario as well as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, both of whom provided prompt responses empathizing with my situation but basically stating that the City has total authority for any water billing issues. I have come to realize that this was never a deposit, but in fact, a donation to the City of Cambridge and as you really can’t fight City Hall without connections, or adequate resources, I’m dropping the issue although it appears to be discriminatory, and labeled falsely.
Our councilperson has ignored repeated requests to meet with me to discuss this issue or even his role in city government, although I know this is not the norm with certain other members of the council. The real issue that I’ve come to discover first hand is that some of our elected representatives could really care less about our concerns if they happen to center on contentious issues. My family and friends will become considerably more active in our ward for the next election which is probably a positive development and endorses the principles of a democratic government. Repeated e-mails and phone messages have gone unanswered… and I ask, is my councilperson the exception? Is this the sort of representation that encourages people to vote in municipal elections? Unfortunately, I should have phrased my requests beginning with “Gary, you are a highly respected local politician and I value your opinion…” but then I would be perpetuating the lie as well.

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10 Responses to Water Donation by Richard Maxwell

  1. Sue Taylor July 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for posting this link, Scot. Much appreciated.

    I was curious about a comment on another news site where it was suggested that perhaps the flood of calls to the water department may have been somehow willfully engineered. This puzzled me since I’m not aware of anyone making false calls to anyone, especially NOT the City.

    This article just adds to the many responses we have received, stating much the same. And they are all genuine and legitimate claims. The problem is real, it’s a whole lot bigger than it ever needed to be, and it cannot be swept under any rug.

  2. Ruth-Anne McCauley July 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    I remember when we had to give a deposit, but you are entitled to interest payments on that deposit every year. Least it use to be that way.

  3. Sue Taylor July 13, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Ruth-Anne,
    Interest payments are supposed to paid on any amounts held as deposits. When this by-law was coming in, the City assured us that interest would be paid on the deposits. If you go to the Ontario Landlords Watch website, under media, you will see videos of the council meeting where this was addressed. So, yes… I also am quite puzzled as to what’s going on with the deposits and the interest.

  4. Sue Taylor July 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Ruth-Anne,
    The City assured us that interest payments would be paid on those deposits which would eventually be returned to the customers. Now, we’re discovering that these things simply are not true. Today, we filed an FOI Request to try to get some answers for the citizens I guess we’ll have to take care of because the City sure won’t. We’ll keep you posted.

    In the next few days, I will posting more and more information on the Ontario Landlords Watch website. Check there for information.

  5. SV July 15, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Before the City took over the water billing how were these problems and complaints handled by the previous collector?

  6. Sue Taylor July 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I have been doing my best to answer the questions of our citizens and explain these things, but my comments have not been making it through to help anyone. Once this problem gets resolved, we can better help you all.

  7. Sue Taylor July 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Ruth-Anne,
    The City originally stated that deposits would be returned and interest would be paid. Now, it seems they’ve reversed that decision without notice. There have been other changes that we’ve also caught that the City did not alert the public to. They just do things, change things, without notice. We’re looking into the deposit and interest payment situation. This isn’t right at all.

  8. Sue Taylor July 16, 2012 at 10:18 am

    SV
    NDHydro had the water accounts and the City took it over from them, apparently without ensuring they have a system in place to handle this. We have suggested to the City that they spend some time in communications with NDHydro and learn.

    The City has claimed that NDHydro charged extra on its accounts to cover debts they may absorb. They also outsourced their collections, which is something we have suggested the City do.

    The City also charges extra to every tenant account, on a continuing basis. If you look into the water and waste water budgets, you’ll find that both those accounts have a very healthy surplus of funds. So, there’s really no excuse for any of this. The water department, sitting with a big surplus of funds, can’t pay back Mr. Maxwell his deposit with interest but they can buy the water dept.a new Mercedes vehicle. Neat, huh?

  9. SV July 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Sue Taylor,
    Thank you for your response. As a matter of record I have not experienced any problems with either NDHydro or the City regarding my water accounts.

    SV

  10. Sue Taylor July 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Well, SV … consider yourself fortunate. The City claims to be receiving 160 calls/day on water accounts. That’s definitely enough to know that a whole lot of folks are having problems.

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