The $1,800 leaky toilet: South Glengarry council agrees on water forgiveness program

A South Glengarry council meeting on Zoom on Monday, May 4, 2020. Pictured (clockwise from top left) are Mayor Frank Prevost, Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden, Coun. Stephanie Jaworski, CAO Tim Mills, Coun. Sam McDonell and Coun. Martin Lang. (Zoom/South Glengarry via Newswatch Group)

LANCASTER – South Glengarry council has agreed to a water bill forgiveness policy, one council member described as a “get out of jail free card.”

The high water bill adjustment program will allow the township to perform a one-time write off of an abnormally high water bill.

Residents will be allowed to access the program “one in a lifetime” for the owner of a particular address in South Glengarry. When a house is sold to someone else, the one-time forgiveness resets.

Since it was brought to council’s attention last year, the majority of councillors felt the program should be retroactive to the start of their term – December 2018.

There will be five water users who will benefit immediately, which will cost the township $7,000.

The new policy is based on North Glengarry’s existing policy it’s had since 2007.

“It gives us a little bit more flexibility…this is a nice adjustment for the water users, especially for events that are kind of one-offs. One water user, a toilet leaking, was actually $1,800 which is a hefty bill for somebody,” South Glengarry Corporate Services General Manager Lachlan McDonald told council Monday night.

Prior to this new policy, the township could only write-off 75 per cent of the sewer portion and give the user six months to pay interest-free if it was proven the water didn’t return into the system. “But that’s not a big respite when you’re ever low income. I think it’s a great move going forward.”

“I think that’s entirely fair and the costs, if it was applied to our term of council, I think it makes sense,” Coun. Stephanie Jaworski said.

The amount of the bill that can be forgiven is unlimited, though staff estimate the township’s exposure is “realistically” $500 to $5,000 per year.