2006 Fowler Election Platform – Repairing Tree Root Damage

by

as originally posted on my Election Website

I fully agree with the London Free Press assessment (“Help reclaim Forest City label”; editorial; London Free Press; 2006/09/24) that although the benefits of trees are enormous, “there can no longer be any serious doubt about the degradation of the city’s wooded environment,” and that “private landowners…must be convinced that more trees are better than fewer.”

That is why I propose that we rethink the current policy of holding individual affected property owners responsible for 50% of the repair/replacement cost of the city portion of sewers which are damaged by the roots of city-owned trees.

This is an issue of fairness. Why should an individual property owner have to pay the arbitrary $5,500 fee toward the real cost of repairing such damage to the city-owned portion of the sewer line, in addition to having to pay 100% of the real cost of repairing the damage to the portion of the sewer on their own property, caused by the roots of a city-owned tree and which may physically be located some considerable distance from their property?

City-owned trees are a wonderful resource which benefit all of us all of the time. That is why we should all, property owners and renters alike, pay the cost of damage done by this shared resource.

Some of what I’ve had to say in the past

Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2006 22:20:32 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Gregory Fowler”
Subject: Sewer (pdc) Replacement Cost
To: pmcleod@thelondoner.ca

Phil,

Thank you for your coverage of the issue (“Home owners must pay half the cost of replacing sewer lines”; The Londoner; 2006/08/27).

As I pointed out to you in my original communication, the prospect of continued substantial increases to local taxes post-election is very probable, given our deteriorating infrastructure.

However, that does not justify the apparent unfairness of the current city policy.

The situation which you described in your article which affected Mr. Hicks is not unique. Refer to #18 on the 2006/06/19 ETC Agenda for another example of this same thing.

What is objectionable about these two instances, is not the replacement of the homeowner portion of the sewer line which has deteriorated because of normal causes. In both cases, apparently, damage was caused to the homeowner portion of the sewer line by a city-owned tree which was located on city property.

City-owned trees are a valuable resource which benefit all of us, regardless of where they are located. The damage caused by them should be borne by all of us equally, not the few unlucky individuals who happen through no fault of their own to be victimized by those tree roots.

I believe very strongly that the city’s policy needs to be revisited.

Greg Fowler, Candidate Ward One.

Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 14:00:18 -0400 (EDT)
From: Gregory Fowler
Subject: FYI – Sewer (pdc) Replacement Cost
To: pmcleod@thelondoner.ca

Phil,

There was a delegation at yesterday’s ETC meeting which I found to be both interesting and enlightening, and I suspect that would be of widespread public interest. Given the fact that you’ve addressed municipal taxation in the past, and my view that this related issue will become prominent in the near future, perhaps you’d like to consider giving it some coverage.

I regret that my attempt to record the meeting using my personal voice recorder was unsuccessful. I continue to believe that all meetings at City Hall (Council + Committees) should be recorded, and that those audio recordings should be available on the City website along with agendas and minutes.

In any event, it was the exchanges between councillors, staff, and the delegate (Mr. Michael Hicks; 519-642-3219) which was most informative.

At issue, the fairness of the current assigned cost of replacing the portion of the sewer which is located on private property as opposed to the real cost, the likely increase in connections that will have to be replaced in coming years, and the probable need to SUBSTANTIALLY increase the Sewer Fee that homeowners currently pay in order to meet that increased infrastructure demand.

This is a complicated issue, and I regret that my disability prevents me from accurately recounting many of the details from memory. However, I am reasonably certain that I can offer these tidbits to wet your appetite…

The real cost of replacing a private drain connection on a “complex street” (eg. a 4-lane arterial) can cost upwards of $20,000. Instead of assigning homeowners the real cost of replacement, and based upon a current average annual replacement rate of only about 100 connections, the City charges every property owner $5500 to replace a connection. That is based upon a current real cost of about $11,000 to replace 100 connections. The individual homeowner pays $5,500, and the City gets the remaining $5,500 from what it collects in Sewer Tax.

The 2006 Wastewater (Sewer) Budget increased by 9.6%. Since our infrastructure is in dire shape, I suspect that average annual replacements will increase sharply from 100 to … who knows? 500? 1000? The point is, expect substantial annual increases to the Sewer Tax.

As an aside, because of the City’s current debt position, I believe that I read that the City is projecting that it will have to pay +$60 million per year in interest charges for at least the next decade. That’s twice the amount that we’re throwing away every year, that we could otherwise be spending to replace our aging infrastructure, with plenty left over to help out public transit, public housing, etc. So, I hope that you’re really, really enjoying the JLC and the new central library.

Greg Fowler

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