If nothing else, homeowners on Montgomery Road who have experienced repeated flooding in recent years are living proof not all city ratepayers are treated equally.
In fact, no resident of St. Thomas should have to deal with the buck-passing and shrugging of shoulders Helaine Hindley and her neighbours have faced in the 18 months since their basements were last inundated, in some cases for the third time.
To add insult to injury, council’s motion to offer a $1,000 grant to the flood-weary folks, defeated on a 4-4 vote last month, has left hem with no option other than to pick up the gauntlet and settle the matter in court.
“It probably leads us to small claims court,” Hindley told City Scope earlier this week. “We haven’t initiated anything yet, but they’ve pretty much said, ‘sue us.’”
Since the last round of flooding in January, 2008, Hindley and her neighbours have banged their collective heads against the wall in dealings with city staff. And the “so-sad, too-bad” attitude of the four councillors who defeated the grant motion has left a taste as foul as the mess in their basements.
“In my opinion, the last vote was an orchestrated set up, to lead us to this point,” Hindley opines. “With the 4-4 it was a dead issue. Now they can say, ‘our hands are tied, we did what we could, sorry for your luck.'”
What’s even more frustrating, adds Hindley, is “everybody in town assumes we’ve been paid and dealt with.”
She figures damage to her house over the past several years is in the $7,000 range, others are not so lucky and the tab is probably closer to $15,000 or higher.
Through all this, city staff maintain they are not at fault so by process of elimination, residents must assume responsibility. However some Montgomery Road residents are now unable to obtain insurance on their possessions.
“The city has tried to put the blame on victims, and that leaves us pretty much nowhere,” notes Hindley. “The people without insurance still don’t have insurance.
“We still haven’t fixed our basement because I don’t trust the city’s fix, a new sewer main. We’ve already had one collapse, so for me to go and fix it at all, I’m hugely wary.”
And who wouldn’t be when you’ve gazed across your basement on several occasions and marvelled at how heartbreaking your belongings look under water.
“The city is saying they weren’t at fault, so who was at fault? It’s not the residents. This wasn’t the first time. I can see if it was the first time. The city knew it was the sewer main. Ald. David Warden said it at council, “if we’re not at fault, why are we still doing repairs a year-and-a-half later on that street?’”
So, with limited options, Hindley and the rest of those with water damage are likely off to court in an attempt to recoup their financial losses.
“Residents are frustrated, disappointed, angry. If every one of us takes the city to court, I think we have very good evidence. If we all sue for $10,000 we’ll end up with $150,000 of the city’s money. They want us to sue and make them look bad and force our hand to get $150,000 collectively.”
After the second flood, several years ago, Hindley got her tax bill in the mail, “and the rate increased for our sewers. What a slap in the face.”
So which taxpayers are members of council looking after? It’s sure not the residents of Montgomery Road.
FROM THE MAIL BAG
Last week’s column prompted faithful reader Chuck Siple to forego his relaxed lifestyle in Debary, Fla., for a moment to pass along the following comments on Mayor Cliff Barwick’s trip to Japan.
“I think the question is — What benefit was this trip to the citizens of St. Thomas?”
The former city resident continues, “A comprehensive report as to number of meetings, subject matter, contacts, potential opportunities, etc., could possibly justify the time and expense. Of course, if the answer is that ‘I networked’, just throw up your hands and give up.”
We’re not throwing in the towel just yet Chuck, and we love your closing comments and observation on the Economic Development Corporation economic strategy.
“I have always been intrigued by high level ‘wordsmithing’. Regardless of the suspected plagiarism, it would be interesting for someone in the local EDC to explain specifically what each of those lofty goals actually mean.”
That sounds like a perfect opportunity for one of our elected representatives to summon an EDC representative into the council chambers to give us the lowdown, in plain English, no bafflegab.
QUESTION FOR YA
What measurable impact have the four series of banners festooning light standards along Talbot Street had on the downtown core?
Are they a positive step in revitalizing and identifying unique areas of the city?
Your comments are appreciated.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“A year-and-a-half later we’ve had repairs on repairs. Our street has been dug up and it’s finally put back together but we’re no further ahead. In fact there are people who didn’t have flooding before who are having flooding. I may start a campaign to say who should be voted in next time.”
Helaine Hindley, a very frustrated Montgomery Road resident says she’ll let her ballot do the talking in the November, 2010 municipal election.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to:mccallum@stthomastimes journal.com