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Water arrears residents reach an agreement with Government

Kitchener Close, Boaz Island residents were relieved to hear that Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz agreed to turn the water back on last night following an impasse over up to $80,000 in arrears.

The agreement was reached once a repayment plan by the residents' committee was approved. The agreement includes verification that water meters attached to each unit will be recorded monthly.

The dispute left residents buying water every other day for five weeks when the Minister ordered the supply be cut in a bid to resolve the issue of outstanding arrears.

When contacted yesterday, the Minister confirmed that he was satisfied with the requirements and that he had approved for the water supply to be turned on.

But he said: “It will be turned on for seven days while the committee makes arrangements to nail down the details of the payment arrangements going forward.

“The committee have told me in writing the steps that they've taken and they have asked for the water to be turned back on.

“They've met my requests and they've sorted themselves out in a way that they will be able to tell who is abusing the system,” said Mr Moniz.

“They can be charged accordingly and with the meters they will be able to tell if there are any leaks that need to be fixed.

“As a result I have told my Permanent Secretary to get the wheels rolling to turn the water back on which should be by tonight.”

Asked if in hindsight he thought the cut off was callous, he said: “No, and I don't mind being called callous. The fact of the matter is the previous Government let this arrears issue sit and fester for years.

“When you look at it there was something like 1.5 million gallons of water not paid for over a period of years. We're elected to govern in a sensible, manageable fashion,” said the Minister.

“When my tank goes dry I have to buy water, that's the deal,” he added.

Wedco chairman and OBA candidate Ray Charlton, who was commended by residents for his role in the talks with the Ministry, was relieved to hear an agreement had been reached.

“With all of this resolved I've offered both the Ministry and the Condominium Association to be a liaison person to help resolve issues like this before the water gets shut off again.

“I understand they have switched it on for seven days to give some time for the committee to come in and solidify the agreement,” he said.

“I can appreciate that the Ministry could not let this situation go on indefinitely.

“They have requested a stricter enforcement of the committee's recovery of funds which will assist them with this and the maintenance of their property.

“The requirement to read the meters monthly would ensure that they are not wasting money as they will be able to check leakage which may have been one of the underlying issues.”

Asked why he decided to get involved he said he was asked for help by a committee member when the water was first shut off.

Said Mr Charlton: “I made a commitment to serve the people of Somerset and it was not contingent on being elected.

“But in this situation I'm glad I was able to help, there's something very satisfying about being able to help others, that for me is rewarding enough.

“I've already had a few calls thanking me now that the water will be turned back on especially with a holiday coming up and the tank running low again.

“I would think the residents there will be very relieved and I've been assured that the water be on by tonight.”

A number of tenants expressed relief on hearing the news.

One woman said: “I'm glad because pulling money out of our pockets every three or four days to buy water for five weeks was irritating especially when I've paid my maintenance bills on time. Yes I'm relieved that the water's back on, now I just hope that the people who live up here pay attention.”

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Published May 22, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 21, 2013 at 11:31 pm)

Water arrears residents reach an agreement with Government

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