City councillors fear that unreasonable expectations have been set with the drainage department. You don’t see the connecting pipe on your property, but if something goes horribly wrong with it, you’re supposed to pay to fix it.
“The City of Edmonton does do more than most other cities across the country in terms of responding to, ‘my service isn’t working what can we do?’ A lot of cities say ‘call a plumber’. The City of Edmonton has never taken that approach. We come out, and try to figure out what the problem is,” explained utility operations branch manager Chris Ward to council’s utilities committee.
There is confusion between the pipe that connects the main city sewer pipe to the house. It’s privately owned by the home owner, and the cost to fix it can get as expensive as a roof repair, in the $10,000 neighborhood.
That prompted the city to offer up a deal. Chances are if the city pipe was deteriorating, so was the connecting pipe to the home owner. Todd Wyman the acting manager for utilities infrastructure said a program was set up.
“We can go out and repair ours,” he told reporters. “It solves a certain percentage of the problem. The other part is, you know what, we’re there anyways, there’s likely going to be a magnitude of economies of scale to do ours and theirs. But then it’s trying to figure out how do we get the financial piece together, and we have to work through that.”
However, hardly anyone took the city up on the subsidy program.
Thing is, if the city uses a camera to investigate a problem it comes with a $334 bill on the home owner’s utility bill. That’s been unexpected said Coun. Andrew Knack, who learned first hand, as he told the committee about dealing with his mother-in-law’s property.
“Often times people said ‘I’ve been calling up for ten years and the city’s always come and done it for free.’ Whether or not they should have been is something entirely different. They probably shouldn’t have been doing that in the first place. But nevertheless we’ve sort of set an expectation and so that’s confused people and we have to make sure we’re very clear on what we expect of home owners.”
Council could take the tough stand of instructing 311 operators to tell callers, ‘call a plumber’ yet Knack doesn’t think they should go there yet.
“You might get there, but step one should be, let’s make sure we’re educating people about ‘you may have experienced this in the past, here’s actually what we’re supposed to be doing, here’s why we do it’ and then we can get to the point of saying ‘yeah, call a plumber’ but let’s not shock people off the bat and let’s do our due diligence and educate people.”
A new program is in the works, after the committee voted to shift a little over $1 million in the drainage budget. Details will be about a year away, including a report on how big of a problem drainage staff expect things to be.