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Plan would expand, simplify city plumbing subsidy

But the Preventative Plumbing Subsidy Program was restricted initially to homes in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding, as well as houses affected by the July 26, 2009, flash flood, which left many homes in the West End with basements full of
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The plumbing subsidy program was created following the July 26, 2009, flash flood, seen above on Lorne Street. File photo.
But the Preventative Plumbing Subsidy Program was restricted initially to homes in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding, as well as houses affected by the July 26, 2009, flash flood, which left many homes in the West End with basements full of water.

So at the end of the two-year period, only $55,000 of the $700,000 fund was spent. Members of the community services committee were told Monday the subsidy program was too restrictive, and the process residents had to follow to get the money was too complex.

The remaining money was put into a reserve fund, so approval of the broader program won't mean having to exceed existing budgets, said Nick Benkovich, the city's director of water/wastewater service.

“And with this new program, we've widened the terms of reference to make more people eligible,” Benkovich said Monday.

Under the new rules, the subsidy will be available to all existing homes within city limits that are connected to the city's sewer system. Dave Brouse, a compliance supervisor with the city, said rather than having the work done first, and then submitting a claim, residents must now be pre-approved.

They'll have to call the city and make an appointment with a staffer, who will then come to their home and get a look at the current system. The staffer will then detail the steps the homeowner must take to get the subsidy, and will follow up with a letter sent to the home again listing the steps.

“You have to have a plumbing permit,” for example, Brouse said.

The new process will avoid past problems, where the homeowner would make a mistake in the process, and no longer be eligible for the subsidy.

Benkovich said his department has been working with city communications staff to come up with a plan to inform the public on how to apply, and to boost the number of people who benefit from the program.

“We'll have a rollout, if council approves it,” he said.

With recent flooding on Notre Dame Avenue and Frood Road still on everyone's mind, the plumbing subsidy program passed easily.

“I'm very glad to see this,” said Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann. “(Now that) it's for existing residences, I'm certain it will be very popular.”

“Great idea -- good program,” agreed Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett.

The revamped program must still be approved by city council before it becomes official.

Darren MacDonald

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