A Vernon couple is warning residents to be cautious when approaching the city.
Tony and Kay Stamboulieh recently reached a financial settlement with the City of Vernon over sewer line issues.
“Taxpayers need to know what they should expect from city hall if they have a crisis,” said Tony.
The situation began in May 2015 when the couple noticed a clean-out cap had come off the sewer line, and liquid was seeping into a pasture along Old Kamloops Road.
A call to the city, according to the couple, resulted in them being told city staff could not enter on to private property and the problem wasn’t with the city system.
“They didn’t want to help us and washed their hands of responsibility,” said Tony, who brought in a plumber to look at the line on his property.
“Our pipes were clean. There was nothing wrong on our side of the connection.”
The couple also met with Mayor Akbal Mund.
“He was very nice and polite and we gave him all of the documentation,” said Tony.
Still not satisfied, the couple hired an engineer and was told there were pressure issues with the city system.
After having spent $3,700 on the process, the couple filed for small claims mediation, they say to bring the city to the table.
The couple says the lawyer for the Municipal Insurance Association of B.C., which represented the city, provided only low-ball offers.Ultimately, the couple accepted $2,000 in June 2016.
“We took it just to put an end to it but you vote in a council to look after your needs. We were left to our own devices. We didn’t know who to turn to,” said Tony.
“The fact that they settled for $2,000 is an admission on their part.”
The couple says the conflict could have been avoided if the city had been co-operative after the first call in May 2015.
“We didn’t want anything. We just wanted help to fix it so the sewer was not out in the open,” said Tony.
The City of Vernon referred all inquires from The Morning Star to the Municipal Insurance Association of B.C.
“I am not familiar with any interactions the claimants may have had with the city’s staff and elected officials and so cannot address any issues that arise from that,” said Tom Barnes, MIABC chief executive officer and general counsel.
However, Barnes insists the claim from the Stambouliehs was handled in a timely manner.
“The claim itself was not made until the city was served with a copy of the small claims proceedings Oct. 20, 2015. A response was filed Nov. 2, 2015, and a third party notice was issued Dec. 4, 2015,” said Barnes.
Illness among some of the participants delayed proceedings, as did differences of opinion among the parties over a settlement amount.
Finally, the Stambouliehs accepted a counter-offer June 23, 2016 and the settlement cheque was processed July 11.
“The claim was settled eight months after it was made, with three months of that time consumed as the result of a postponement due to health and further month taken by the claimants to consider and accept the final proposal,” said Barnes.
“As these things go, that is a pretty efficient resolution of a piece of litigation. We are very serious in the application of our claims handling philosophy, which is that all claims against MIABC members should be resolved solely on their legal merits, as quickly and efficiently as practicable.”