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Mediation helps resolve Mayor Gordon’s sewer bill with Town of Alberton

Mayor David Gordon is pleased to have sewer utility arrears resolved.
Mayor David Gordon is pleased to have sewer utility arrears resolved. - File Photo

Principal and $5,000 penalty will be paid

ALBERTON, P.E.I. —

Town of Alberton and Mayor David Gordon have reached an agreement on the mayor's sewer bill.

Gordon will pay the town $3,035 by Oct. 12, to cover sewer fees accumulated from 2001 to 2019. He will also pay the town $5,000 in penalty charges. That amount will be paid in five installments, concluding on Sept 30, 2020. The amounts totalling $8,035, were agreed upon through mediation.

The agreement was reached on Sept. 12, following an all-day mediation session between councillors Blair Duggan, Kelly Williams and councillor-elect Alan Curtis, representing town council, and mayor David Gordon. Frank Gillan acted as mediator. Town council ratified the agreement during a special meeting Thursday night.

“I’m happy to have it behind us, and not only for myself; it’s for the new council that’s there, too. I don’t want to put any more burden on them,” Mayor Gordon said Friday.

Gordon’s sewer arrears were raised during a meeting town council had with officials from the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs in June. At that time his total arrears, including interest, were $40,540.15. By the time the matter went to mediation, the total had climbed to $42,280, the difference entirely made up of interest. As set out in the Water and Sewer Act of P.E.I., and administered by the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, a two per cent/per-month compounded interest rate is applied.

Deputy mayor Blair  Duggan hopeful policy can help prevent repeat of sewer utility issue.
Deputy mayor Blair Duggan hopeful policy can help prevent repeat of sewer utility issue.

Summarizing how Gordon’s debt grew so large and for so long, Gillan, in his mediator’s report suggested: “it took a perfect storm of miscommunication, misunderstanding and missed opportunity, with neither party entirely blameless.” 

Gordon is referred to throughout the report as “the Resident.”

He said the misunderstanding stemmed from Gordon’s belief that he did not have to pay the sewer rate because he was not connected to the town’s sewer system and claimed ignorance to a provision in the Water and Sewer Act that deems him connected because the sewer line fronted his property.

Gillan said the town found no indication in its files that it had communicated the requirements of the Act to Gordon, something that might otherwise have resolved Gordon’s misunderstanding at the outset.   

He also found there were missed opportunities for the town to demand payment and to advise Gordon that an unpaid utility bill constitutes a lien on a person’s property. 
Gillan suggests the town “needs to accept significantly more blame for this matter festering for 18 years.”

Giving his interpretation of Gillan’s findings, Gordon said: “There should’ve been letters sent out to me by lawyers or professional people. That was never done. There should’ve been a threat to garnishee my house, knowing full well that bill was there.”

He confirmed his first $1,000 payment was made from his honorarium and said he will honour all of his remaining obligations. 

“That will be looked after. No worries.”

Commenting on the agreed upon $5,000 penalty, Gillan said that’s roughly equivalent to compounded interest owned from 2001 to mid-2010.

In his report, Gillan points out “the Resident” was not granted any special deal based on his mayoral position. 

“The terms of the settlement are based solely on the facts of this unique and unfortunate case.”

Like Gordon, deputy mayor Blair Duggan is pleased to have the matter resolved.

Duggan said Gordon’s case was unique, not because he was mayor, but because he wasn’t hooked up to the utility. The town could not force payment with a threat of disconnection.   

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