The Town of Pilot Butte has won a water fight after going to court to enforce fines against four homeowners who refused to hook up to the central water system.
On Oct. 5, Judge Paul Demong ruled in favour of the town and leveled fines of $1,005 against several people who had refused to pay to hook up to the central water system before the deadline of March 31, 2014. The bylaw introducing fines was passed the same spring.
At the time, News Talk Radio interviewed several people who were told they would have to pay between $14,000 and $20,000 to hook up to the new central water system after costs to build the plant skyrocketed.
Four homeowners went to court to fight a fine for refusing to hook up at all.
One woman chose to settle with the town out of court. Another man failed to appear in court to fight the fine.
Don Miller along with Leslie and Karen Treso chose to represent themselves in court to fight the charges.
Miller argued that he did not want to pay for town water because his well water is fine and he didn’t need it. In court he also argued that the town had not consulted properly with residents before passing the bylaw for the fine. Judge Demong expressed some sympathy for the situation, but ruled against Miller saying he did not present a viable defense.
“With the greatest of respect to Mr. Miller, his feeling that the town did not engage the residents to the extent it could have when passing its bylaws is not a defense to the town’s lawsuit,” he wrote.
The Tresos argued against the fine on four grounds including that they didn’t believe the water quality was suitable and that the town is a “legal fiction” and has no binding authority over them. They also claimed to not have received the notice of violation and argued that an earlier bylaw gave them the option of choosing to hook up or not. The judge rejected all four arguments, saying they had no proof that the water quality was an issue and they willfully ignored the notice of violation sent by registered mail. The judge went on to call the argument about the town having no authority without a contract “frivolous bordering on vexatious.”
“It is predicated on a line of reasoning which is utterly devoid of legal merit and which finds no support in any jurisdiction in Canada,” he wrote.
Miller and the Tresos were ordered to pay a fine of $1,005 along with the third man who did not show up in court.