Adjudicator rebukes N.S. town for 'incompetence' in flooding case

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Adjudicator Raffi Balmanoukian wrote that Trenton, N.S., has a crumbling infrastructure and is 'broke as a joke.' (Google Streetview - image credit)
Adjudicator Raffi Balmanoukian wrote that Trenton, N.S., has a crumbling infrastructure and is 'broke as a joke.' (Google Streetview - image credit)

An adjudicator has ruled that the owner of an apartment building in Trenton, N.S., is not entitled to compensation for repeated flooding on his property.

But while Raffi Balmanoukian found the town was within its right to list other projects as higher priorities with its limited funds, he also criticized Trenton for financial mismanagement to the point of "incompetence."

The dispute centred on Lowden Brook, which runs near North Main Street in Trenton. A culvert carries the brook under the street.

Evidence at the small claims hearing found that the culvert is more than a metre square at its entrance, but tapers to less than half that width under the road.

In January 2019 and again in July of that year, heavy rain caused the Lowden Brook to overflow its banks.

The water backed up into an apartment building owned by Jason Kay. He took the town to small claims court, seeking compensation for the damage caused.

Town staff were disorganized

In evidence he presented at the hearing, Kay argued the town was aware of the problem and repeatedly deferred taking action to correct it.

Balmanoukian found that while there was substantial evidence of disorganization and general mismanagement — to the point of it serving as a political science case study of "what not to do" — Trenton was within its right to prioritize other projects.

"The ultimate facts are that the Town of Trenton has a crumbling infrastructure, is 'broke as a joke' and has had more bad luck in its tax revenue base than Joe Btfsplk," he wrote.

Balmanoukian added that Trenton's problems are not unique.

"It has a storied past, but like many towns built on steel or other heavy industry, it has seen more prosperous days," he wrote.

"With the vicissitudes of time, its infrastructure is aged and in places beyond the end of its economic life; these converge to make for a municipal budget wholly inadequate to make anything but a small dent in the 'wish list' annually, even under the best management."

The adjudicator also found that the town was shielded against legal action by provisions of the Municipal Governance Act.

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