City steps in at Care Centre after dispute with utility

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By Nick Seebruch
City steps in at Care Centre after dispute with utility
The outside of the Cornwall Care Centre (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – The City of Cornwall has stepped in to cover the heating at hot water bill at the Cornwall Care Centre after the service was cut by the utility company, Cornwall District Heating (CDH) which is a subsidiary of Fortis.

The Cornwall Care Centre, located at the former Cornwall General Hospital site is home to a few dozen senior residents and those living with disabilities.

The owners of the Centre have been working to install an independent boiler and heating system which they had hoped would be online by now, but that project met delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Care Centre then fell behind in payments to CDH, which was providing heat and hot water.

According to John Robinson, a paralegal representing the owners of the Care Centre, the owners made a payment to CDH of $43,000 on Tuesday, June 9 in order to meet the demands of the utility, however, the service was cut anyway the following day.

Jaqueline Baird, a General Manager at Fortis said that due to privacy reasons, she could not go into detail on the case with the Care Centre, but did say that service was restored to the building one hour after it was cut and that CDH has been working to come to an agreement with the Care Centre’s owners for a year.

“We are willing to continue to work with the property owners to reach a resolution,” said Baird.

When the service was cut, CDH informed the City of Cornwall in accordance with the Vital Services By-Law 132-1999.

According to the by-law, landlords must ensure that each tenant of their properties is receiving essential services if it is the landlords responsibility to provide those services.

If a landlord fails to provide such services, then according to the by-law, the City will step-in to ensure those services are provided and will shoulder that cost for a period of time.

To recuperate some of the costs associated with shouldering the responsibility for such services, the by-law states that the City could re-direct tenant rent payments to itself.

“We will not be taking this on for an indefinite basis,” said Maureen Adams, Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Cornwall. “Hopefully in the interim, it will give the owners time to come to an agreement with CDH.”

Robinson, the paralegal for the Care Centre’s owners took issue with how the City and Fortis handled the situation.

Earlier in the week, the City of Cornwall posted notices signed by Charles Bray, Acting Chief Building and By-law Official for the City of Cornwall.

The notices, addressed to the Centre’s owners, stated that they were in breach of the Vital Services By-Law and that they had directed CDH to reconnect the heat and hot water service. The notice further stated that the City would be shouldering the responsibility for the service for the time being.

Robinson feels that the residents of the Care Centre are being used as pawns in a conflict between the Centre’s owners and others.

“These vulnerable people need to be protected. This is not the time to try and force an advantage for whatever agenda might lie behind the scenes,” Robinson wrote in an email to Seaway News.

The City met with residents on Friday afternoon, June 12 to inform them of the current situation.

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