City officials attempt to storm The Care Centre over heating dispute, owner says

The Care Centre at 510 Second Street East in Cornwall, Ont. One of the owners says a group of city officials tried to barge their way into the building on Friday, July 17, 2020 in the latest chapter of an ongoing dispute over heating and hot water at the facility. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

Update: The Care Centre has one month to sort out heating supply: city

CORNWALL – One of the owners of The Care Centre says City of Cornwall officials – backed by police and paramedics – tried to storm their way into the facility this morning (Friday).

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, co-owner Dan Orr detailed the confrontation around 9:40 a.m. Friday morning outside the private facility at 510 Second Street East. It’s the latest chapter in an ongoing saga between the center, the city and its heating contractor over supplying heat and hot water.

“They came in and said ‘Yep. We’re here to tell all your residents their hot water is going to get cut off because we’re going through a commercial dispute,’” Orr said.

Between 14 and 20 officials were outside the facility, according to Orr and his paralegal, John Robinson.

Orr explained that the facility is close to finishing a conversion of its heating system from hot water under Cornwall District Heating (a subsidiary of FortisOntario) to natural gas under Enbridge but the work has been held up due to the coronavirus pandemic and a number of extenuating circumstances.

Meantime, the facility is in a dispute with Cornwall District Heating (CDH). Orr claims CDH is trying to force them into a long term contract – something they don’t need because they are converting the heating system. Last month, The Care Centre was served with a notice by the City of Cornwall on June 11 that it was in contravention of the vital services bylaw, evidently triggered after Cornwall District Heating shut off the hot water during the dispute.

With the city now in control of the heating account, Orr claims the City of Cornwall has never presented them with a bill to be able to pay. “But the city hasn’t said, here’s a bill, if you guys don’t pay this, we’re going to make sure all your residents move. It should be, we’re paying this right now, here’s a bill,” Orr said.

This morning’s showdown got somewhat heated as Orr said they had no right to come inside the building without a warrant. “They said, no, we don’t need a warrant. They repeatedly said we don’t need a warrant, we can go in as we please. I called my lawyer and he said, no, you’re under no obligation to let them enter your building.”

Orr says one of the officials ran into his arm that he put it up across the front entrance, barring them from entering. “They were attempting to barrel past us to go do whatever the heck they wanted, even though they were told repeatedly they were not allowed in the building without a warrant.” He says he also locked the magnetic entrance doors to keep them out.

Orr says the officials backed off and left after being told they would be sued for trespassing. He told them that their lawyer could contact his lawyer. He says he tried to serve a notice of trespass to Acting Chief Building Official Charles Bray in front of a police officer but Bray refused to accept it nor would police take any action. Orr still intends to serve Bray with that notice.

A phone call to Acting Chief Building Official Charles Bray requesting comment was not returned. In an email, Bray said the city would be sending out a media release later today.

Cornwall Police Service spokesman Stephanie MacRae says officers were there “for purposes of keeping the peace during a meeting” and that no issues arose.

The Care Centre was opened in 2015 in the former general hospital site to provide a mix of specialized health and retail services as well as affordable lodging for seniors with an average rent of $1,447 a month, which Orr says is about half what other nursing homes charge. The are roughly 45 residents at the facility.