Frus­tra­tion sets in

A Prince Al­bert res­i­dent is still wait­ing to hear how much of a $6,500 wa­ter bill she’ll be pay­ing.

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - JASON KERR @ker­r_­jas • jason.kerr@pa­her­

A Prince Al­bert se­nior fight­ing a nearly $6,500 util­ity bill still doesn’t know how much she’s go­ing to have to pay.

On Mon­day, city coun­cil voted 4-2 against a mo­tion that would have seen Nel­lie Souter’s $6,495.78 wa­ter bill, is­sued on June 17, 2016, re­duced to $300. In­stead, the mat­ter will be re­ferred to the city man­ager for fur­ther dis­cus­sion.

It was a frus­trat­ing meet­ing for Souter, who said she wouldn’t be able to pay what the city was ask­ing, and con­tin­ued to in­sist that it was im­pos­si­ble for her to use that much wa­ter.

“I’m just a se­nior. I live in the house by my­self. There’s no way on God’s green earth that I cre­ated that wa­ter bill,” she said.

Ward 1 Coun. Char­lene Miller and Ward 3 Coun. Lee Atkin­son both spoke in favour of re­duc­ing Souter’s bill to $300.

The orig­i­nal mo­tion tabled for Mon­day’s meet­ing would have called for Souter’s bill to be cut in half. That would have re­duced the amount owed from $6,495.78 down to $3,046.84. How­ever, Miller al­tered the mo­tion to a to­tal pay­ment of $300 be­fore vot­ing.

Miller said she dis­cussed the is­sue with Souter, who lives in Ward 1, and rec­om­mended the $300 fig­ure based on what the oc­cu­pant was able to pay. Miller also noted that there are

nu­mer­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions in the city, like Cooke Mu­nic­i­pal Golf Course, who do not pay a wa­ter bill, so waiv­ing the fee would not be un­heard off.

Both Miller and Atkin­son added that the city bears some re­spon­si­bil­ity for the prob­lem be­cause wa­ter bills are not sent out ev­ery month, which means prob­lems are not caught as quickly as they should be.

“We could stop th­ese things from ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing if we had a monthly wa­ter bill, so the res­i­dents would re­al­ize, ok, we have an is­sue, so if we have an is­sue it’s only go­ing to be $1,000,” Miller said dur­ing the meet­ing. “It’s not go­ing to be $6,000 or $3,000.”

Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody, Ward 5 Coun. Tim Scharkowski, Ward 6 Coun. Martin Ring and Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zu­rakowski

all voted against the mo­tion to lower the bill to $300. Ward 2 Coun. Rick Orr was not at Mon­day’s meet­ing.

Ring and Zu­rakowski said they sym­pa­thized with Souter’s plight, but were wor­ried about what kind of prece­dent they would set by re­duc­ing the pay­ment by such a large amount.

“At this point I’m not com­fort­able on mak­ing a de­ci­sion on this tonight,” Ring said dur­ing the meet­ing. “Coun. Miller made some very valid points, and I do think we have to be care­ful with it, but I think we do have to be care­ful with it from a prece­dent stand­point as well.”

Zu­rakowski added that al­though the city should have caught the prob­lem sooner, ul­ti­mately Souter bore some re­spon­si­bil­ity as well.

“Frankly, I think there’s some own­er­ship on this is­sue on both sides,” he said.

The mat­ter has been re­ferred back to city ad­min­is­tra­tion, who will re­view it fur­ther. Souter said she’s get­ting tired of the whole thing, but will prob­a­bly keep on fight­ing.

“I might yet,” she said. “I’ll see what hap­pens.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pre­sented to coun­cil, the first un­usu­ally large wa­ter me­tre read­ing from Souter’s home oc­curred on Feb. 9, 2016. It showed she had used 27,315 cu­bic feet since the last bill. The re­port added that the clerk at the time was new, and sub­se­quently did not flag the ac­count. As a re­sult, the ac­count was not flagged for high us­age un­til March 15.

The high con­sump­tion lev­els were con­firmed by a read­ing taken one day later, but city clerks did not see the re­turned work or­der un­til April 11. A work or­der was is­sued that day to ad­vise Souter that she had a leak.

Ser­vice per­son­nel who ar­rived at Souter’s home that day to change her me­tre said there was about an inch of wa­ter on the base­ment floor. The ser­vice­man also re­ported see­ing a leak un­der a base­ment sink, and a wa­ter line that was com­pletely dis­con­nected. At that point a plumber was called in to fix the leak.


Nel­lie Souter sits in­side City Hall af­ter Fri­day’s meet­ing. Souter said she’s frus­trated af­ter a mo­tion to re­duce a wa­ter and sewer bill to­tally nearly $6,500 to $300 was voted down by coun­cil.

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