Ottawa

Constance Bay residents feeling 'gouged' by inspection fee

Homeowners in the flood-stricken community of Constance Bay say they're being charged nearly $400 to have their power turned back on.

As flooding subsides, homeowners being charged nearly $400 before power can be restored

Bruce Peterkin and Janet McKeen-Peterkin paid nearly $400 to the Electrical Safety Authority for an inspection, even though their home was mostly dry. They received a refund on Monday. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Latest

  • On Tuesday, the ESA announced it's waiving reconnection fees in flood-damaged areas provincewide.
  • Those who have already paid can get a full refund by calling ESA's customer service centre.

Homeowners in the flood-stricken community of Constance Bay say they're being charged nearly $400 to have their power turned back on.

Hydro One cut electricity to homes along a stretch of Bayview Drive last week over fears the rising Ottawa River could spark fires when water came into contact with the power grid.

I thought we were being gouged.- Bruce Peterkin

Power is gradually being restored as flood waters begin to recede — 33 of the 150 homes shut off last week had electricity by Sunday afternoon.

But before Hydro One can turn the lights back on, homeowners need a safety inspection by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) at a cost of nearly $400.

Paid for inspection

"I thought we were being gouged," said Bayview Drive resident Bruce Peterkin. Peterkin said his home's crawl space had some water, but sandbags and generators prevented further flooding.

Peterkin paid the fee of $387.67 over the phone before an inspector arrived a couple days ago to tell him his home was safe to have its power restored.

An angry Peterkin has contacted a number of ESA directors, his councillor, Eli El-Chantiry, MPP Merrilee Fullerton and MP Karen McCrimmon to complain.

On Monday morning, he received a refund — but Peterkin said he should never have been charged in the first place.

"This is not the time to start charging people for a safety inspection that's required because of a flooding," he said.

Constance Bay resident Bruce Peterkin and area Coun. Eli El-Chantiry say charging flood victims a fee to reconnect their electricity isn't fair. 1:07

Angry calls

El-Chantiry said he's been fielding lots of calls from upset residents.

"People lost a lot with this flood," he said. "Some folks, they were high and dry but because they were part of that catchment area, they get shut off and now you're charging them money to turn [the power] back on. I don't think that's fair if you ask me."

He's sent a letter to Fullerton and Premier Doug Ford asking the province to cover the cost of the inspections.

"I think the provincial government should do the right thing and pay for that cost," El-Chantiry said.

Parts of Bayview Drive remain flooded as hydro crews work to restore power to the area. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Inspection required

The Electrical Safety Authority is a not-for-profit corporation based on a user-pay model. As one electrician put it to CBC, they're like "the police officers of the electrical world."

Inspectors must ensure homes are safe before power can be reconnected, said Earl Davison, the ESA's vice-president of operations. Once a home is deemed safe, the utility company is notified and power is restored.

He said the fee covers the cost of the inspections, but refunds are available.

"If there is no damage and it can be reconnected, we refund the cost of the fee," Davison said.

If there's damage to a home's electrical system, the homeowner will need to hire a licensed electrical contractor to make repairs. A follow-up inspection is then required.

Two homes near the evacuation area in Constance Bay caught fire last week. The causes are still under investigation.

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