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LETTER: Something is 'fundamentally wrong' in Oro-Medonte

'Bad-faith litigation destroys public trust and must not be tolerated,' says letter writer who urges residents to exercise their vote in municipal election
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OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at dave@orilliamatters.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). This letter to the editor and open letter to Oro-Medonte council is in response to an article about water connection costs in Horseshoe Valley, published Aug. 23, 2020.
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Something is fundamentally wrong when taxpayers have to take a township to court to obtain justice. Is there something fundamentally wrong in Oro-Medonte?

You be the judge.

Consider the plight of more than 1,000 people who live in an area known as ‘Zone 1 Water’ in Horseshoe Valley.

Water has been supplied to their subdivisions since the 1970s. Bill Lohuaru was the developer and visionary builder who turned ‘Hungry Hollow’ into the resort community we all know today as Horseshoe Valley.

Back in 1980, Bill signed a ‘Water Rights Guarantee Agreement’ whereby the former Township of Medonte would assume responsibility for the Zone 1 water distribution system. The agreement came into effect on Oct. 12, 1982. The result? The municipality assumed the water system and homeowners were billed for the water they used, including amounts to cover future repair and replacement costs.

This all sounds so simple, and in most municipalities it is. It certainly isn’t a complicated problem. Yet, fast forward 37 years to December 2019. It was a merry holiday season until Zone 1 homeowners received a ‘Grinch Notice’ from the Township of Oro-Medonte. That’s when they learned that the township was going to assume the Zone 1 water system from a private owner. Homeowners were given a bill for $9,300, and if they didn’t pay, the amount would be added to their tax bills.

In August 2020, as objections continued to pour in, the township lowered its demand to a one-time-only charge of $7,100. In an attempt to convince people to pay this bill, one member of the township council tested our intelligence by asking, “Why should people in Warminster pay for the Zone 1 water system?” The only question that should have been asked is, “Why should we pay for a water system we already own?”

In the fast forward from 1982 to 2019, you didn’t miss anything. Despite what the township would like you to believe, Oro-Medonte already owns the Zone 1 water system. That’s what a task force that was struck in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2019 concluded.

Homeowners, working jointly with township officials, did their research. They uncovered a long and continuous trail of documents that confirmed the chain of ownership — the township already owns the water system. The township has never provided any documents to the task force that show otherwise.

The task force found that the former Township of Medonte assumed Zone 1 from the developer, Bill Lohuaru, back in 1982. Yet, the township continues to refuse to withdraw the levy, a move that many see as a bully tactic that has been designed to cover up mistakes it made. That left Zone 1 homeowners with no choice.

They had to sue the township. Any time residents have to sue their municipality to reveal the truth, something is fundamentally wrong.

The township can waste thousands of dollars using lawyers to drag out the proceedings. It can use our tax dollars to fight us and delay justice while our legal bills mount. This is not a new strategy. Ruthless people with no conscience operate this way. But that’s not how any township should ever work. It may be perfectly legal, but it reeks of bad faith.

For now, the Zone 1 lawsuit against the township is proceeding. When judgment day approaches, the township will settle. That means the bill they sent to homeowners in December 2019 was an error or worse.

So, here are some questions for the mayor and council.

When will the Oro-Medonte council acknowledge that it made a mistake about the ownership of the Zone 1 water system?

This question could be followed with: Legal costs have been incurred to reveal the truth. Will the township compensate the Zone 1 homeowners for their legal costs?

Now for the challenging question that may strike a nerve. Where are the reserve fund monies that were collected annually and set aside to rehabilitate the Zone 1 water system?

The answer to this third question could be very interesting. The financial repercussions of admitting the truth about ownership of the Zone 1 water distribution system could prove costly. By acknowledging ownership of the Zone 1 water distribution system, the township would be admitting that it is responsible for the reserve funds.

You can help to ensure that justice is done by ending this continuing story. Bad-faith litigation destroys public trust and must not be tolerated. Mark your calendar and vote in the municipal election on Oct. 22, 2022. You can render your judgment at the ballot box about the kind of township that you want. Be sure to cast your vote for someone who will not betray the public trust and will treat you and your neighbours with respect.

Larry Herr
Oro-Medonte Township