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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

 Kingsville Council asks for comprehensive review of E.L.K.

- the desire is to address unreliability, lack of response

to complaints, road user agreement -

by Sylene Argent

Members of the Town of Kingsville Council voted unanimously to ask the Town of Essex, as the owner of E.L.K. Energy Inc., to direct the local utility to get its executive leadership and Board of Directors to complete a comprehensive review of the electrical supply to determine why its supply is unreliable, why E.L.K. is unresponsive to customer complaints and concerns, and why E.L.K. won’t work with the Town of Kingsville on a road use agreement.

  The matter was dealt with at the Kingsville Council meeting held on Tuesday, October 12.

  Kingsville Councillor Kim DeYong made the motion, which notes E.L.K.’s disruptions and outages result in economic hardship and losses to local businesses; personal hardship as homes and family lives are disrupted; loss and damage to electronic equipment; and stress and concern arising from uncertainty as to when the service can be relied upon.

  “We do not understand why the E.L.K. executive leadership, E.L.K Board of Directors, and Town of Essex are unresponsive to customer concerns, which have been raised by many individuals and business leaders,” it states in the resolution.

  The motion also states, “The Town of Essex must be accountable for E.L.K. and cannot simply take dividends without any expectation of delivering reliable service, good customer service, and reasonably requiring E.L.K. to operate safely and cooperatively with the Town government within which it operates.”

  DeYong said her motion was strongly worded, and it was intended to be.

  During her three-years on Kingsville Council, DeYong said Council has asked politely to get E.L.K. to the table. “I hear regularly from residents and businesses that this is a problem, and they are asking for our help.”

  She said residents have passed on concerns they made to E.L.K. to her, and the utility’s responses are, “pretty vague and not helpful,” DeYong claimed.

  CAO John Norton explained Director of Municipal Services, Andrew Plancke, has been trying to work on a road user agreement with E.L.K. for almost a decade.

  “When I arrived, I was quite shocked to learn that we have them working on our road allowance without a road use agreement that…just makes simple requests, like getting notice to us, so our Public Works crews will know when they have planned work. We’ve really had no success, I think, so far this year.”

  Norton said Kingsville staff has had a couple meetings with E.L.K.’s representatives, and invited them to come to a meeting with Council. They did come. Since then, there really has been no progress on the road use agreement.

  “They continue to just plan their work in our community and on our roads as they’re legally allowed to do, but they give us no notice. We know of a couple situations, in fact, that have been dangerous to residents, where their contractors have not done as they are supposed to. To me, it is actually quite shocking. I don’t know what else to do,” Norton claimed.

  Plancke added the road use agreement is just one thing Kingsville has been trying to solidify for some time.

  “They just seem very reluctant. They want to be able to operate the way they want to be able to operate and don’t want to be held accountable by any one municipality. That is disturbing for us, because as [Norton] mentioned, so often we come across their work sites and we had no idea what they are doing, or why they were doing it, or when they were doing it. They just start doing it.”

  E.L.K. claims, Plancke added, they can do this under electrical authority acts, which they are permitted to do, “But a courtesy notification is also required by them to us under that same statute.”

  “They are supposed to request any assistance they may need from us or any permits they may need from us, which may include traffic control, sidewalk diversion plans, and so forth. They simply don’t do it.”

  Other utilities follow those requirements, he said.

  Years ago, Kingsville sent a draft policy to E.L.K., Plancke said, adding it was months before E.L.K. responded, and their comment was that they did not like it and were not going to adhere to it. He added the Town followed up to see how it could be improved, and E.L.K. did not reply.

  Deputy Mayor Gord Queen suggested reaching out to Lakeshore to see if the same problems are noticed there, and perhaps the two municipalities could work together on an agreement.

  Councillor Tony Gaffan noted over the past two-years, the number of businesses that have incurred damages has really escalated – from freezers, TVs, and fridges – due to power outages. “But, what was really breaking my heart is I have a couple of customers that are on dialysis and some of them have a generator and some don’t have the financials to do the generator and have had some scary issues. So, I think it was due time and I like the strong language [in the resolution],” he said.

  Failing a satisfactory resolution from the Town of Essex and E.L.K. in regard to the items above within four months, the resolution will have Kingsville Administration bring a report to Council on options available to the Town to hold E.L.K. accountable, which could include a complaint or application to the Ontario Energy Board.

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