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Couple faces $4k in repairs, city fees, to get free city water meter

WATCH: Toronto couple forced to pay thousands to get free water meter. Christina Stevens reports. 

TORONTO – A Toronto couple is upset after being forced to pay what they call a “fine” by the city for not replacing their water pipes – at a cost of nearly $4,000 – fast enough.

They are one of approximately 700 customers in the city currently being charged the city fee.

Jeff Mowder and Noreen Flaherty moved into their Leslieville home 2.5 years ago. They received notice from the city that the new water meter had to be installed several months ago. But six months ago Neptune, the contractor, showed up and told them they couldn’t install the meter until they replaced the pipes.

”They said they were not able to install a water meter because there was a lead line coming in from the city and it was too much of  a liability to put their meter on a lead pipe,” Mowder said in an interview Friday.

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Mowder is willing to spend the money fixing his pipes and has started the process of doing so. But, he says, in the interim, the city has fined him $500 for not getting it done fast enough.

“We’ve shown that we’re going to replace the lines so the fine should not be applied to our bill and give us a reasonable amount of time to replace it,” he said.

WATCH: Jeff Mowder and Noreen Flaherty say they feel like they have no control over the situation that the city has placed them in.

His wife, Noreen Flaherty, agrees.

“I’d like to see something, something; I’d like to see the fines removed. We’ve only been living here for two years, 2.5 years so perhaps this was an issue before and we weren’t aware of it,” she said.

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“But as new homeowners, and trying to deal with the issue, I’d like the fines removed.”

The city is telling homeowners across the city they have to switch to new, automated water meters. The program started in 2010 and is looking to change nearly 475,000 units from unmetered to metered service.  The city’s completed approximately 95 per cent so far.

The installation is free but if it’s not done the city imposes fines of $1,000 a year.  The city of Toronto does not call it a fine however, but a “legacy fee” used to recover costs.

“It’s a cost-recovery,” Carlo Casale, the city’s manager of the Water Meter Program said. “It’s unmetered water so what we found is in some of these cases, we found when we convert from unmetered to metered, some of the accounts were using way more than normal.”

Mowder has already received one fine of $500 and says, because the work might not be done for another six months, could get another. The city however says if the work is done, but the fee is still levied, a “retroactive adjustment” will be made.

– With files from Christina Stevens

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