A move to reimburse Winnipeggers whose clothes were dirtied by city water was countered with a laundry list of concerns for fiscal responsibility on the floor of city council today.
A motion to instruct civic staff to consider all legitimate claims for compensation to laundry washed in brown water was temporarily sidetracked by a debate from councillors who were concerned about uncontrolled costs and worries it would open the floodgates for other claims.
In the end, the motion by Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) was approved, with only four councillors voting against: Ross Eadie, Paula Havixbeck, John Orlikow and Justin Swandel.
"If we just start paying for people’s damaged laundry as they bring it in, we could create a great deal of expense here," Swandel (St. Norbert) told reporters following the council meeting, adding those claims will have to be covered by all property owners.
Swandel said it will be hard to justify to homeowners why laundry claims are legitimate and why other claims are not.
"It seems to me we’re just trying to get out there to be seen to be doing something to stop people from being angry about brown water," Swandel said.
Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) tried to get the issue referred back to committee for clarification but her amendment was defeated.
Vandal said he brought the motion because it appeared city staff weren’t being sincere when they advised him and other councillors to tell residents they could make claims for damaged laundry.
Vandal said city staff had rejected every claim brought to them, hiding behind the rationale that the City of Winnipeg Charter absolved the city of any responsibility for water issues so long as the water is considered safe to drink.
Vandal said he and Mayor Sam Katz spoke to the legal department and others responsible for claims, adding staff will determine how to define a claim as legitimate and they are authorized to make payouts.
Katz said he wasn’t concerned that the issue will open the city up to untold expenses, adding if there are any issues, the administration will bring it back to council for direction.