Hawkesbury council voted on May 27 to not cancel $16,000 in interest that has accumulated on a business owner’s water bill over the past five years.
Johanne Séguin owns Buanderie Cayen, a commercial laundry service and she wants the interest charges taken off the water bill for the business. She explained that she reached an agreement with former Hawkesbury Mayor René Berthiaume and former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Jean-Yves Carrier to have the interest waived when the water bill for the business increased sharply after the town installed water meters in 2012.
In 2017, the council led by former Mayor Jeanne Charlebois also refused to cancel the interest. The staff recommendation at the most recent meeting was to again deny the cancellation.
The town claims it has no written record of the agreement reached between Séguin with Berthiaume and Carrier.
Documents from Séguin indicate she met with Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis about the issue. Tsourounakis is also the President of the Hawkesbury Chamber of Commerce.
“There is no precedent here; this is an error,” he told council.
Tsourounakis compared the situation to someone checking their coat and not receiving a claim ticket, and the management changed at the coat room before they returned to collect their coat. He said Seguin was led to think she had a deal and could claim something, but town management changed while she was waiting.
“These were punitive interest charges made in error,” said Tsourounakis.
Mayor Paula Assaly said the discussion involved the CAO and mayor of 2014. She noted that the story began a long time ago and she had read all of the documents involving it.
Assaly called cancelling the interest “a difficult decision” to make but said she supported cancelling the interest charges.
Tsourounakis noted that Seguin went to city hall looking for help and thought she got it, but ended up being charged $16,000 in interest, which was not part of the town’s budgeted revenue.
“She still paid her taxes, it’s just interest we’re talking about, I think it’s a grave injustice,” he said.
Clerk Christine Groulx said council defeated the recommendation, adding that another motion would be needed to cancel the interest.
Councillor Raymond Campbell was not sure about how much was taxes and how much was interest.
Tsourounakis said it was all interest. Both he and Assaly insisted that the actual property taxes were paid.
“I feel sad for her,” Assaly said following the meeting.
“She paid all her taxes,” the mayor added.
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