Napanee Council relieves church’s water woes

Napanee Town Hall at night. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

The Council of the Town of Greater Napanee has voted to forgive St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church’s abnormally high water bill, which occurred when a leak in an inaccessible part of the church building went undetected over the summer months.

Town staff presented their “Request for Utility Bill Forgiveness” report to Council at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, and asked Council to give direction on any future practice of utility bill forgiveness. Council voted in favour of granting the church’s request for relief, with the specification that this one-time decision was not a new policy.

Council voted to confirm as a general policy the past council’s Resolution 91, which was that the “practice of providing sewer relief for high utility bills due to leaks remain terminated, and that the only relief to be provided be through the continuation of customer friendly payment plans.”

Council further decided to “grant a specific exemption to this policy to the St. Mary Magdalene Church on the grounds that this exemption is in the best interest of the broader community because the applicant is a not-for-profit which provides services to the community and because the building is not occupied continuously. And further, that Council authorize sewer relief adjustment in accordance with the terms [of the] prior sewer relief policy.”

Before the vote, Councillor Bill Martin expressed his opinion that Council needed to have the leeway to make such decisions on a case-by-case basis, especially in the case of a non-profit such as a church.

Councillor Mike Schenk also said a non-profit such as a church did good work in the community, and he felt it was different from “a residence or a commercial business that’s open seven days a week or anything like that. So I’m in favour.”

Clerk Jessica Walters confirmed that the motion on the table could be used in cases where relief was in “the best interest of the broader community,” as determined by Town Council.

The motion passed.

Meetings of the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee can be viewed virtually (or watched afterwards) on the Napanee Town Council YouTube channel, or attended in person in Council Chambers at the Napanee Town Hall, 124 John Street. Further information about Council meetings is available on the Town’s CivicWeb site.

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