Two candidates for city council in West Kelowna are championing the cause of a group of Glenrosa residents whose homes sustained damage after one of the city’s underground pressure valves failed back in June.
Both John S. Martin and Tasha Da Silva have spoken to some of the property owners who want the city to offer compensation for the damage.
On June 22, city crews responded to an underground pressure valve failure that affected a portion of Glenrosa. Several residents in the vicinity of McIver, McBain and McTaggert roads reported flooding inside and outside their homes.
They argued the city should pay for the damage and repairs because it was a municipal pressure valve that failed.
However, recently, the city’s insurance company, the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia, denied 14 homeowners claims for compensation.
“On September 1, the city was informed of the third-party examiner’s decision to deny 14 property owners’ claims, as these homes were not equipped with the appropriate pressure-reducing valve,” said Paul Gipps, CAO, City of West Kelowna in a statement to Castanet.
“This equipment, required by the B.C. Building Code, helps protect homes from sudden infrastructure failures outside the City’s control. The City of West Kelowna is a member of the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia, which adjudicates claims for municipalities in B.C. as an independent third party.”
Martin believes that’s not good enough. At least two of the property owners say no one with the MIA contacted them to get their side of the story.
“To automatically deny claims through their insurance agency without competent investigation is not appropriate when you come to a city dealing with community,” said Martin. He moved to West Kelowna four years ago from Toronto, where he was a fire captain for 30 years.
He says councillors are responsible to the public and while only a small portion of the public was affected, members of council have a responsibility to at least consult with them.
Tasha Da Silva is also running for council for the first time. She is the current Glenrosa Resident Association president.
Da Silva spoke briefly with Paul Gipps after the claims were denied and has a follow up meeting booked for later this month.
“In that meeting, I’m definitely going to be able to advocate for the city to go back to the insurer and re-evaluate the ruling,” she said.
Da Silva says what happened is an eye opener for others in the community to check that their homes have the most up-to-date pressure-reducing valves.
“In the meantime I’m trying to get as much information on the pressure-reducing valves themselves.
“Are people moving into Glenrosa and getting house inspections and this is not being caught? How many other houses are being affected by this?”
Martin adds that most homeowners aren’t well versed on the ins and outs of building code updates and even if they were, it’s unlikely they could afford to add the latest equipment every time the code is revised.
CAO Gipp told Castanet he has not decided yet if the issue will be brought to city council’s attention.
“We have to be very cautious. Because if we do something, every day something happens in the city with a rock coming off a weed whacker or a lawnmower, or somebody hits a pothole and gets a flat tire. So, we want to be consistent with every other city and how they handle theirs, so that we are consistent.”