“In one word — liability!”

Councillor Wells writes the problem at Misner Dam

Like most of the citizens of Port Dover, I am extremely disappointed in the slowness of Norfolk County’s efforts to repair Misner Dam, so we can restore Silver Lake back to its “Glory Days.”
Three years ago, at a council-in-committee meeting – councillors agreed to recommend to council that we repair Misner Dam. Unfortunately at our council meeting the recommendation was deferred to await more information.
After three years, and many studies, and spending over $500,000 we are still waiting.
I think its fair to ask why!
The dam had served the community for over 100 years, let’s just repair it and it will probably last another 100 years.
What’s the problem?
Unfortunately, the answer is not one you are going to like. In one word – liability!
The experts, the consultants, and those above have all done their studies, their assessments and have determined the dam, even if we fix it, in its present design, will not withstand the pressures of a mythical 100 year storm.
If that storm should occur, and the dam fails, there will be great damage to property as well as the possibility of loss of life.
Now that we have been made aware of disastrous potential, we just can’t discount the advice from all these experts.
Again, please allow me to explain our continuing frustrations and why we are afraid to move forward (as much as we would like to).
At our Dec. 3 council meeting we were reviewing the staff report for the need to renew our insurance at a cost of almost $1.6 million (an increase of 13.7%) to insure our Norfolk County assets worth $331,800,000.
We heard for liability insurance, for every $1.00 collected by the insurance company they pay out $1.30 in awards.
We have often heard that governments have deep pockets let’s sue them (and more and more individuals are).
Here are four examples as to why insurance rates are going through the roof and why no one wants to take any unnecessary risks.
Example 1.
A judgment against a municipality for $10 million. The reason – the roadway did not have a centerline painted – even though a line was not required according to the Ontario Manual of Uniform Traffic Control. The municipality found 66 2/3 liable.
Example 2.
Municipality found 50% liable – cost $9.6 million – when a driver lost control while driving 86 – 95 km/hr on a curve posted at 65 km/hr. Also, the road did not have a fog line. But it was not necessary.
Example 3.
Municipality found 50% liable. A young driver who had been drinking beer – not wearing a seat belt, drives through a clearly visible stop sign. The judge sited road design and signage and awarded 5.5 million dollars.
Example 4.
Municipality found 55% liable – cost $4 million after a vehicle failed to straighten out after a curve in the road, crossed an eastbound lane and struck two trees.
These are not Ripley’s Believe It or Not stories. They are actual cases.
Maybe, just maybe, these examples will help you understand why we are afraid (reluctant) to move forward, knowing full well, that if something catastrophic should happen we (you) will be sued.
We would then have the impossible task of defending our decision of not following the advice of the experts whose opinions we paid to get their professional advice.
We have a tiger by the tail.
P.S. This may also help explain why your mayor has been so steadfast in voicing his concerns over the ownership of the dam. He is only trying his best to protect our taxpayers.
In life, there are very few truly black and white issues.
Merry Christmas,

John Wells
Norfolk County Councillor

Posted: December 14, 2013

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