Editor’s note: The Village of Ryley has since responded to this story, two days after the mayor declined comment. You can read the update, published Tuesday evening, here.
William Yarmovich has lived in the Village of Ryley, east of Edmonton, for nearly 20 years. He’s loved all of it except the last couple- he claims he’s been bullied by the village’s administration.
The 86-year-old told Global News he’s been forced to sell his beloved home and move into a friend’s seniors residence after he was saddled with a $4000 bill for painting the exterior of his home, a requirement of the village.
Since Global’s story was broadcast, several Ryley residents have called, emailed or commented to question Yarmovich’s account, saying he was given ample time to comply with the painting order and refused offers of help.
His story begins in the summer of 2015 when Yarmovich says a village bylaw officer told him his home needed painting.
“I started scraping the loose paint and of course I fell off a ladder, broke two ribs and I was incapacitated for two months,” Yarmovich recounted.
While he was on the mend- he says he was issued a ticket by bylaw officers- fining him for “tall grass” on his property.
“They got somebody to cut the grass. Charged $200 for a job that’s worth $25,” he said.
The senior paid the fine and was given an extension on the painting of the house. The village requires homeowners to maintain the exterior of their homes as well as their yards through a ‘community standards’ bylaw.
By the summer of 2016, Yarmovich said he and a neighbour had about a third of the house painted.
“They gave me a time limit,” he said. “By the 31st of August I needed to have it done and of course it rained darn near every day. You do not put paint on wet lumber because it will not bind.”
That’s when Yarmovich says village administration took matters into its own hands, sending a crew out to paint the house and making him foot the bill, nearly $3500.
Yarmovich says he arranged to have the rest finished too – just not quick enough.
“I already bought the paint, I made arrangements to get it painted for roughly $800,” he said.
The senior has not been able to make the payment. He looked into getting government assistance for the maintenance, but was unsuccessful. Yarmovich said his only option was to sell the home and pay the bill.
“I’m 86 years old, I’ve only got so much ability and so much financial resources.”
In the meantime, he’s also been charged an additional 18 per cent late payment fee and another 10 per cent since. His bill now sits at $4000.
“Well there’s no way I could come up with that kind of money,” the senior said. “So I decided to put the house on the market. Luckily, a guy was interested and he bought it, which was a relief. Even though I basically gave it away, it was a relief.”
Ryley Mayor Lavonne Svenson did not answer questions when reached on Saturday, but told Global News “We have forwarded all of our documents to our legal council and are waiting for his response.”
Seniors advocates liken Yarmovich’s experience to elder abuse.
“We allege that the CAO and the mayor and the council have subjected Mr. Yarmovich to virulent elder abuse,” said Ruth Adria, spokesperson for Elder Advocates of Alberta. “We’re outraged.”
The organization has written a letter to the village asking for the painting fees to be waived and the lawn mowing fine to be returned. Adria said they also want an apology for Yarmovich and a promise not to treat any other seniors in Ryley the same way.
“They’ve been in hiding ever since- so obviously we hit the mark,” Adria said.
Yarmovich now plans to move out of the village he once loved and into nearby Tofield.
“They’ve caused me enough frustration,” he said.
He said he will miss his garden the most- where he grew vegetables for so many neighbours.
The senior, who worked as a contractor for over 35 years, said he felt bullied by the village.
“There are other houses that need paint more than mine, he just targeted me,” he said speaking of the bylaw officer.
The Village of Ryley is a small community of 497 residents located just 50 minutes east of Edmonton on Highway 14.
with files from Sarah Kraus