A Dawson Creek resident said that he is frustrated with an unwelcome surprise from the City.
A week before Christmas, Dawson Creek resident Aime Girard received a bill for $466.20 for unpaid water infrastructure charges.
“You’d thought – considering everything – that it was their mistake, it’s coming on to the holidays – you’d thought they would have been maybe a little sensitive,” he said.
Girard did not receive the letter, dated Dec. 14, until around Dec. 17 or 18. Normally, his bills were around $52.
“I noticed the envelope was a little thick … all of a sudden there’s a $466 fine,” he said. “And with my wife being disabled, and me not working, and it being Christmas time I thought hey-y-y now.”
According to the letter, an internal audit review showed that Girard had not been charged for monthly infrastructure charges from April 2011 to September 2012.
However, his family faces more financial stresses than others. Last November, a foot surgery designed to heal a foot that had been giving him pain left Girard unable to work. His wife, Edith, requires oxygen from a machine, and has been left disabled for the past 12 or 13 years.
Sitting in his home, with his bandaged foot rested on another seat near his kitchen table, the room humming with the noise of his wife’s oxygen machine, with the wire going from one room of the house to the other, Girard said that he was “a little bit frustrated” with the situation.
“I don’t mind paying my fair share,” he said. “The whole thing that really got me fired up was that I got this sucker right around Christmas time … a little compassion, a little sensitivity would certainly go a long way.”
Girard also said that in talking with the City, they explained to him why the charges were needed. They also did not make him pay all at once, giving him many months to pay for the charges.
Girard is also well off enough to afford the extra costs.
“I wouldn’t say it was difficult to pay,” he said. “We’ve tried to be prudent, although you could always find other places to be more prudent.”
“It really hasn’t taken me totally by surprise,” he added. His neighbours also paid similar charges for their infrastructure.
Jim Chute, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, said that he could not comment on Girard’s individual case, as privacy laws prevented him from doing so.
However, he did say that the internal audit done by the City showed that approximately 10 households received similar charges out of the 4,700 that the city does every year.
“We have a couple of internal audits every year, and one of them does come near the end of the year,” he said. “If we find a discrepancy, somebody overcharged, or somebody undercharged, then we would send the letter out, because we want utility bills paid within the fiscal year, which for us is the calendar year, it would not be unusual for a letter to go out in December sometime.
“The alternative to billing the individual when the mistake is made that we charge everybody else,” Chute added. “Either the individual needs to pay or else his neighbours need to pay, so why would you want that to happen?”