This is the second in a 2018 series of commentaries from municipal politicians which allows them to tell you, in their own words, what is important to them, what bugs them and what makes them tick. Each week will feature a member of either the Huntsville or Lake of Bays Council. As we enter an election year, this is your opportunity to get a better picture of your elected politicians. This week: Huntsville Councillor Bob Stone.
A Councillor’s Dilemma
By Bob Stone
I am often asked if I enjoy being on Town Council. Usually I reply ‘Yes, it’s always challenging and I really enjoy helping constituents with their problems.’ However, let me share with you a recent example that describes the type of difficulty that I, as a councillor, regularly face. What appears to be obvious and the right thing to do is often complicated and can’t be achieved.
Recently, I received a call from a constituent who was exasperated by the Town’s claims process. There also appeared to be a problem with a Town policy that I didn’t even know existed.
On November 19 Huntsville had a beautiful Muskoka snowfall. Right on cue, the Town snow plows took to the roads and, as always, did a great job. However, one plow that was clearing the roads downtown happened to hit a maintenance hole (manhole). The cover, and the ring that holds it, broke free. The heavy metal ring rolled down the hill, straight into this person’s car.
At this point you might say to yourself, as I did, ‘Well, accidents happen, but it is reasonable to presume that the Town’s actions caused damage to personal property, therefore the Town should pay to fix her car.’
As it turns out, the Town’s policy is to only pay for damages if the Town was “negligent” (adjective: failing to take proper care in doing something).
The woman was advised by the Town’s insurance adjuster that the Town was not negligent in this incident and she should contact her own insurance company to have her car fixed.
The damage was estimated at just over $2,000. She would probably have to pay a deductible amount of $1,000 out of her own pocket and a claim may cause her insurance premiums to increase. The repercussions of the Town’s actions are making her spend money for something that was absolutely no fault of her own.
This didn’t seem right to me, so I requested a meeting with the Mayor and Town staff to get to the bottom of this policy and hopefully help this lady. The Mayor was sympathetic and wondered if we could self-fund situations like this, knowing that our insurance company would make premiums rise even more outrageously if we included this type of situation under our policy.
At our meeting, staff explained that we get hundreds of calls from residents about a myriad of issues, and cited damage to cars from potholes and trees that fall from town property onto private property, etc. They explained that it is often heart wrenching for them to implement our policy when a resident on the phone explains their existing hardships and now has to deal with a problem that was not of their own making. I heard that if we self-funded a policy that reimburses residents for such things, we would need a qualified adjuster and additional staff requirements to evaluate and administer these claims, not to mention a significant pot of money to pay for them.
So, now I’m left with the question: Should Council consider implementing such a plan at great expense to Huntsville taxpayers or do we make this person pay for something that wasn’t her fault?
This is my first Term on Town Council and I intend to run for Town & District Council in 2018.
I am currently:
Chair – Economic Development Committee
Chair – Committee of Adjustment
Chair – Property Standards
Vice-Chair – Planning Committee
Council Rep. – BIA board
I have created, owned, and operated three businesses:
Henley Creations (Stained Glass)
Amigo’s Mexican Eatery (114-seat Restaurant)
Christmas Tyme Downtown Huntsville 1995 – 2015.
I am happily married to my wife Tracey for 27 years and we have two awesome boys: Connor (Queens University–Astrophysics) & Bryan (Nipissing University–History & Philosophy).
The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. —Sir Winston Churchill
Previous commentaries in this series:
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.