CITY council quietly killed a rebate program earlier this year that offset the cost of clearing tree roots from sewer and water lines.
Finance committee chairman Russ Wyatt said the city endured complaints for years from residents that the rebate amount wasn't enough. He said it wasn't worth keeping the program when the city is trying to control its spending.
"The rebate didn't cover much of the actual cost of getting the lines cleared of tree roots," Wyatt (Transcona) said, adding the decision to cancel the program was made mainly to control spending.
City officials said the tree-root rebate covers 50 per cent of the cost of service calls, to a maximum of $50. Over the past five years, the city gave out, on average, $180,000 in rebates a year to an annual average of 3,600 homeowners.
Wyatt said it cost an additional $20,000 to administer the program.
Cancelling it caught the industry and residents by surprise.
Krista Levesque, a spokeswoman for Roto-Rooter, said the industry was only informed the rebate was cancelled after city council approved the budget in January.
She said firms that do the work were not consulted.
"It may not seem like much, $50, but every little bit helps, especially if you are on a regular maintenance program and get the roots cleared every couple of years or so," Levesque said.
Typical costs for clearing tree roots are about $250 and go up depending on the severity of the problem.
"Our customers didn't like it when we told them the rebate had been cancelled," Levesque said.
City officials said the rebate was inconsistent with city policy that property owners are responsible for damage to sewer and water lines that occur within their own properties.
The city continues to offer its basement-flooding subsidy for the installation of in-line backwater valves and sump-pump draining systems.
"Property owners have the responsibility to implement available and appropriate loss-prevention measures for the protection of their property," a civic official stated in an email to the Free Press.