Western Bay cabin owner relents in legal spat over unpaid garbage fees
About four cases a month involving Eastern Regional Services Board end up in court
A Western Bay cabin owner has begrudgingly agreed to ante up five years in unpaid garbage collection fees, but he is far from the only person to have a dispute with the Eastern Regional Services Board end up in small claims court.
Derek Winsor, a St. John's businessman, appeared in a courtroom on Friday, and ultimately agreed to pay $855 — which works out to $171 a year for garbage collection from 2013 to 2017.
He will be permitted to work out a payment schedule and could have been on the hook for up to $2,000 — including interest costs — but that doesn't mean he's happy about the result.
"I totally … don't really agree with it," said Winsor outside the courtroom on Friday.
"I really don't think [small claims court] was necessary. I think it could have been done around a boardroom table."
'Communication is a problem'
Winsor has maintained he wasn't notified when Western Bay signed on for garbage collection through the board in 2013.
After finding out last summer, he paid up for 2018, and says he'll continue paying.
It came out in Friday's legal proceedings that the Eastern Regional Services Board offered Winsor the same deal he agreed to pay on Friday, $855, back in April.
Why didn't he just pay it then and move on?
"Just because the legislation says [the board] is allowed to do it, I think they have an obligation, and a moral obligation, to us as taxpayers to say, 'Here's your invoice … and this is the fee,'" said Winsor.
"Their communication is a problem."
Board chair says exceptions made for 'reasonable' cases
But Ed Grant, chairperson of the board of directors, said there's little chance Winsor didn't know about the garbage collection fee.
When Western Bay availed of the board's services in 2013, there were notices placed in stores and newspapers. The ERSB even canvassed the town, Grant said.
"If people come to us and make a reasonable case they didn't know — even though this issue has been topical for the last four or five years for sure — then we can make an accommodation," said Grant.
"I think it's rather disingenuous to suggest he didn't know there was garbage collection in the area."
Outside the courtroom on Friday, Grant said Winsor could have resolved this in April.
"This exact same offer was made a year ago.… He chose not to accept it. Mr. Winsor wanted his day in court and he had his day in court."
The provincial government is reviewing the process in place. Grant said there is no central data base for properties in unincorporated areas like Western Bay, and a minimum assessment system, which is in place in other provinces, would help simplify the process.
Grant said the ERSB sees three or four cases end up in small claims court each month.
For Winsor, that's an unnecessary burden on the small claims legal process and taxpayers, too.
"I just think it's important that the ERSB … move forward and learn they have to treat people with respect," he said.
The ERSB posts the outcomes of some small claims cases on its website. A similar case from the Southern Shore in 2014 shows a judgment in favour of the board, saying, "Regardless of whether you were notified or not, there is still a legal obligation to pay."
With files from Stephanie Kinsella, Ryan Cooke and the St. John's Morning Show