Malden lakefront residents outraged at public meeting

By Joel Charron

As Geoff Kidd drove to the United Communities Credit Union Complex for the special public council meeting on water and wastewater rate and harmonization rates, he told his wife Mary he had a funny feeling about the meeting.

It turned out that his intuition was right.

Along with adopting amended water and wastewater rates, council notified Malden lakefront residents that they would not receive a rebate, which enraged the over 200 people who attended the public meeting.

The audience, which was filled mainly with residents from the Malden lakefront area, paid user charges to hook into their own sewage system approximately ten years ago.

Malden lakefront residents feel they are being “double billed” as they are expected to contribute to the $34 million sewage treatment plant. The residents were hoping to hear news on the long awaited rebate issue after Councillor John Sutton made a motion to seek rebates back in January.

However, the news that town solicitor Ed Posliff told the  boisterous group was not the answer they were looking for.

Posliff said because the town has borrowed money for the sewage project, it must maintain its rates to pay for the debenture.

“The Municipal act prohibits rebates of money or the reduction of money needed to support the debt,” said Posliff.

Sutton said he came to the Wednesday meeting looking to fight tooth and nail for the rebate process, however the province would not allow it.

“I really do believe in the fairness of it, otherwise I wouldn’t have put forth the motion,” said Sutton. “Unfortunately, the province under the Municipal Act, won’t allow it. If I could get Dalton McGunity’s ear, I’d tell him I’d like him to change that post-haste, but we all know that’s not going to happen.”

Councillor Diane Pouget said all the councilors came to the meeting in good faith, but only found out about not being able to provide a rebate only minutes before the public filled the room.

“We studied the numbers for hours, individually then as a whole, trying to get you the fairest rate,” said Pouget. “We didn’t know about this until about 10 minutes before you came in. This took us by surprise too. We really are trying to do what’s best for all of you but our hands are tied.”

The crowd then exploded with anger.

“Shame on everyone of you,” said unidentified man. “We expect something back in return, whether it is a discounted rate or a rebate that you say you can’t do. You guys should be shamed on because we brought this up several times prior to this meeting and that is why everybody is sitting here tonight. Shame on all council.”

“No one did their homework from the last meeting. This is a total disregard for everyone sitting here,” said Anthony Campigotto.

Campigotto told Mayor Wayne Hurst that at a public meeting over  10 years ago, Hurst mentioned that Malden residents would have to pay for their system while residents in Amherstburg would pay for the plant in town.

“That’s easy for you to say. I would never say that. I know I never said that,” shot back Hurst.

Hurst explained to the crowd that he traveled to Toronto in efforts to lobby for funding for the Malden sewage plants.

“Who went to Toronto to subsidize the plant? I did,” Hurst said.

The public shot back with “That’s your job.”

Many residents were in favour of harmonization rates, however they were frustrated with having to pay for the Malden sewer plant and now are being asked to contribute toward the new Amherstburg plant. Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland asked if rates could be split. However, Posliff noted that it wouldn’t be harmonized if the rates were split.

Council also agreed to raise water rates 10 per cent this year and five per cent each year until 2015.  Consultant Terry Hearn of the engineering firm of CH2M Hill said the 10 per cent increase this year on the water rate will allow the system to have enough revenue to avoid going in the red by 2016.

Wastewater rates will be increased five per cent each year until 2015.

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