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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Store owner told to close up by summer's end

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POINTE DU BOIS -- Was Angel Calvo punished for standing up to Manitoba Hydro?

One day after the Winnipeg Free Press asked Hydro about complaints by Calvo, who runs its grocery store in Pointe du Bois, the Crown corporation told her she must leave by summer's end.

Calvo had complained that Hydro has not lived up to its landlord obligations since she won a tender to run its grocery store here. The utility owns the store, like everything else in the company town.

Upon taking over in 2010, Calvo immediately learned the store roof had multiple leaks. Manitoba Hydro refused to fix them. The roof now leaks in five places. Buckets are placed throughout the store when it rains. Calvo stopped paying her rent -- a nominal $231 per month -- last September in protest.

As well, Calvo must commute two hours each way between Winnipeg and Pointe du Bois to run the store. She asked to rent one of Hydro's vacant houses or an apartment suite but was refused. When Calvo, who has epilepsy, moved a trailer onto the store site so she could stay overnight occasionally, Hydro made her remove it.

Less than 24 hours after the Free Press asked Hydro about Calvo's complaints, head office notified her that she is to be out of the store by summer's end. The reason given by head office, Calvo said, is the town's demolition is slated to begin.

Hydro has told Pointe residents they have until Jan. 1, 2015 to leave, however.

Calvo maintains Hydro is obligated to provide employee-residents of Pointe du Bois a convenience store under their collective agreement. Hydro says it has no such obligation.

Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider denied that giving Calvo her notice was a reaction to the her interview. He said Hydro called about her past-due rent and Calvo asked about her term.

"It had nothing to do with the conversation," he said. "I think we've been talking to her for awhile about getting out."

The store's closing "has to do with the shape of the building. The other thing that enters into it is she hasn't paid her rent since July of last year."

Schneider said Hydro wouldn't fix the store roof because the cost is "horrendous." (Calvo says Hydro got a quote four years ago that it would cost $11,000.) He added later that the lease agreement calls for the lessee to be responsible for maintenance of the store building. Schneider said Hydro refused to rent a house or apartment to Calvo because they are for employees only.

People in the area are livid. "I just think it's corporate bullying," said Jack McLaughlin, a cottager near Pointe.

"Hydro has had the benefit of making money out of Pointe for the last 100 years. Now when it come to putting some money back in, it's allowing everything to go to pot. Where is its duty and obligation?"

Since taking over, Calvo has added several services like coffee and hot lunches for the many construction workers building the new $400-million spillway for the Pointe du Bois dam. She started a personal laundry service for the workers, many of whom are away from home. She delivers groceries to some seniors who can't get out.

Calvo, who also started a petition to save the store and the outdoor swimming pool in Pointe du Bois, said she is especially disappointed because she gave up her own business in East Selkirk to run the store. She saw the store as a chance to return to Pointe du Bois, where she grew up. "This is God's country. It doesn't get any nicer than here. It's so peaceful. You can hear a pin drop at night," she said.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 J3

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