Har­bour Grace cou­ple liv­ing with­out power for over a year

Tammy Whalen and part­ner an­gry with New­found­land Power, town coun­cil

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS

HAR­BOUR GRACE, NL — Liv­ing with­out lights, elec­tric­ity, wa­ter or sewage may sound im­pos­si­ble in this day and age, but for one Har­bour Grace cou­ple, it’s been a year-long re­al­ity.

Tammy Whalen has lived in her home on Har­vey Street for the last 21 years. The home is hard to miss with its vi­brant pur­ple colour scheme. Now, how­ever, Whalen’s put up a sign on her front door, hop­ing to catch the at­ten­tion of passersby for a much dif­fer­ent rea­son.

The card­board sign, signed at the bot­tom by Whalen her­self, states that she has been with­out a proper in­spec­tion since last year, and that her lack of power can be traced back to the Town of Har­bour Grace.

“No ques­tions or com­ments. I can’t take it any­more. Di­rect it to the town,” the sign reads.

Whalen lives in the house with her part­ner, Richard For­ward, and her youngest son. Whalen and For­ward told The Com­pass their sit­u­a­tion spi­raled out of con­trol fol­low­ing an un­paid town coun­cil bill dat­ing back a cou­ple of years.

The bill in ques­tion cov­ers wa­ter and sewage for the home. If un­paid, the home in ques­tion will have those ser­vices shut off un­til the bill is paid again.

Whalen ac­knowl­edges the fact that she has an un­paid bill re­lat­ing to wa­ter and sewer. Her ac­cess to light and power, how­ever, is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent bill, and one that Whalen says she has paid.

“The fact that we have no power com­ing to this house makes no sense,” said Whalen. “I don’t owe any light bills, and whether or not I owe the town for wa­ter should have noth­ing to do with my lights or my power.”

For­ward, Whalen’s part­ner, has been ac­tively try­ing to set­tle what he be­lieves was a mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the par­ties in­volved. For­ward told The Com­pass he feels as though it is his place to do so, as Whalen strug­gles with se­vere men­tal health is­sues.

“I stand up for her be­cause she can’t prop­erly do it her­self,” For­ward said, to which Whalen agreed. “I’m not go­ing to let them bully her. She’s in a hard sit­u­a­tion, and it shouldn’t be like this.”

Whalen ex­plained that these same men­tal health is­sues are what forced her out of her job at the Har­bour Grace Cold Stor­age.

Ac­cord­ing to Whalen, all she needed to get proper power in her home is an in­spec­tion from New­found­land Power, as those bills were paid for.

Whe­lan said an in­spec­tor told her that New­found­land Power were in­structed by the Town of Har­bour Grace not to come to Whalen’s home un­til her town coun­cil bill was paid.

Whalen told The Com­pass she be­lieves the town coun­cil bill, which gets big­ger ev­ery year as it goes un­paid, should be no more than $4,000 or $4,500.

Mayor re­sponds

How­ever, Mayor Terry Barnes told The Com­pass the fol­low­ing day that the amount of money owed by Whalen reaches into the $7,000 range.

Barnes also ex­plained that coun­cil does not have di­rect con­trol over these sorts of go­ings on in the town.

“If some­one is not pay­ing their bills, their re­sources get cut off, plain and sim­ple,” ex­plained Barnes. “We as coun­cil don’t do that. If you’re not pay­ing your bill, your wa­ter and sewage is cut off, and then we hear about it af­ter the fact. Coun­cil­lors, or any­one who has a seat on coun­cil, don’t pick and choose who gets to keep their wa­ter and who doesn’t.”

Barnes also ex­plained that New­found­land Power was not told di­rectly by the town to not in­spect Whalen’s home. In­stead, Barnes stated that New­found­land Power came to them, ques­tion­ing Whalen’s stand­ing with the town fol­low­ing other un­paid bills.

“They called us, be­cause she hadn’t paid a light bill, and we said that she owed a lot of money,” Barnes said. “If you’re not pay­ing your bills, you can’t ex­pect things to just con­tinue go­ing on like they al­ways have been. Coun­cil’s hands are tied in this sit­u­a­tion.”

Whalen and For­ward ex­plained to The Com­pass how they’ve been liv­ing over the past year and some months. Whe­lan re­lies on monthly Em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance, which she says nets her ap­prox­i­mately $900 a month. How­ever, she went on to ex­plain that about $600 of that goes into run­ning a gas-pow­ered gen­er­a­tor through­out the day, re­sult­ing in very lit­tle money for her to prop­erly pay her un­paid bill.

“I take my bike down with a 22-litre con­tainer, fill that up with wa­ter, and that’s what we’ll use for cook­ing, clean­ing, what­ever else,” said For­ward.

Whalen also ex­plained that the sup­port of her friends and fam­ily has been a ma­jor fac­tor in the sit­u­a­tion thus far, hav­ing to go to rel­a­tive’s homes to bathe.

Con­fronta­tions

Barnes told The Com­pass he’s had per­sonal is­sues with For­ward since the sit­u­a­tion first erupted.

“Ev­ery time I go down to Ul­tra­mar, they’re out­side their house, yelling at me, say­ing what­ever they can to me,” said Barnes. “But I’m the mayor. I’m a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the town, I’m not go­ing to go get a peace bond or some­thing against a res­i­dent. My lawyer wrote For­ward a let­ter in­struct­ing him to keep out of it, and that’s as far as that’s gone.”

Barnes went on to say that al­though nei­ther he nor coun­cil has played a di­rect role in the or­deal, he plans to do so in the fu­ture.

“Mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions are com­ing up in Septem­ber. If I’m still mayor come then, I’ll make sure there’s some kind of in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this,” said Barnes.

The Com­pass con­tacted New­found­land Power for com­ment, but did not re­ceive a re­sponse prior to dead­line.

“I just want my lights, my power back, that’s all. I’m tired of be­ing treated like some kind of crim­i­nal,” said an emo­tional Whalen. “It’s just not fair.”

CHRIS LEWIS/THE COM­PASS

Tammy Whalen placed this sign on her front door fol­low­ing is­sues re­gard­ing un­paid bills.

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