Debate rages over private homes and public funds

Takhini North residents and city councillors still can’t agree on money. Residents want the city to cover water and sewer work under their…

Takhini North residents and city councillors still can’t agree on money.

Residents want the city to cover water and sewer work under their aging homes because the city knew their plumbing system was decrepit and didn’t tell them.

Politicians assert the city was never involved in the sale of Takhini North properties and council has no business using taxes to pay for plumbing on private property.

The latest round in the year-long plumbing bout took place at city council’s public budget discussion on Monday night.

Flanked by a handful of community members, resident Tanis Davey challenged the budget while making Takhini North’s case to council.

“As a citizen of Whitehorse and a resident of Takhini North I find the city’s proposed budget both perplexing and disappointing.

“Residents of Takhini North have water and sewer systems that have been in need of replacement for over 30 years.

“Citizens everywhere in this city should be concerned that the replacement of our system is not fairly accounted for in the budget.”

The problem is simple, she said.

When they bought homes in the subdivision, which was formerly owned by the federal government, they were never told just how bad the water and sewer systems were.

They weren’t told it could cost residents tens of thousands of dollars per house to have it repaired.

The city knew and chose not to tell them, said Davey.

“We were not notified of the state of disrepair of our water and sewer systems at the time our homes were purchased, although the city was well aware of it.

“We’ve asked you to help us to come up with a solution to a problem that was created due to extremely questionable decision making by previous city officials.”

“Any responsible government would assume and make right historical errors such as this,” said Davey.

Residents would like the city to pay for all the plumbing work, including work in their private homes, when the aging series-type plumbing system is replaced over the next few years.

“You’ve offered no solutions to this mess — while you flaunt your fiscal largesse with one of the largest capital budgets in the city’s history.”

Council has a different take.

If residents are upset, they should take it up with whatever lawyer they used to seal their respective real estate deals, said councillor Doug Graham.

The problems with the water and sewer systems were clearly outlined on residents’ land titles; not checking that fact doesn’t make it the city’s responsibility, he said.

“What I don’t understand is when people say they didn’t know about it.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that there’s an easement on their title.

“The biggest reason, I’m sure, they’re looking to the city is we’re seen to have deep pockets.”

Paying for private work with public funds would set a bad precedent, said Graham.

He favours sticking with the city’s plan to have the estimated $10,000-per-household plumbing bill covered by the city up front and then paid back by residents over 15 years using a local improvement charge.

It’s an offer the city has already made, said Graham.

Mayor Bev Buckway would also like to find a solution that works for everyone, she said.

But, that solution doesn’t include the city absorbing the bill for work under people’s homes.

“I do not support the city paying for work on private property.”