Talks have finally begun to try to work out a resolution as to who really owns the drinking water system next to the old firehall in the town of Wabana on Bell Island.
The process up to this point has been as slow as sink water seeping down a clogged drain.
The controversy began when Beachstone Enterprises — the company that had purchased the old firehall property from the town for about $20,000 — realized last summer that the deed to the property appeared to include the shed next door that houses the town’s nearly $400,000 Advanced Drinking Water System (ADWS).
Beachstone Enterprises owner Jim Bennett then offered to lease the water system back to the town for $3,000 per month — with a $50-per-day late fee should the rent not be paid on time — and a security deposit of $2,500.
The town was outraged and vowed to do whatever it took to get the water system back, even suggesting possible expropriation of the property.
Tensions have simmered since then, and a meeting recently took place between representatives of the town and Beachstone.
Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine said he was encouraged by the meeting.
“We had a very good meeting. It was an excellent discussion and we are hoping to resume talks soon,” Gosine said. “We are hoping for a favourable outcome at the end of the day for both sides.”
A person answering Bennett’s cellphone on Friday, however, said she didn’t think the meeting had gone well at all.
But Bennett did not return a message left for him on Friday.
A few months ago, Beachstone placed the old firehall up for sale again.
It was still listed on Friday at a price of $529,000 by a local real estate agency.
The information in the listing does not mention the shed the water system is located in, though it is shown in a couple of the photos in the listing.
When the issue of the water system came to light last summer, the town stated that neither side intended the system to be included in the sale, and the error was due to an incorrect spelling in the deed documents. The town still rightfully owned the ADWS, it claimed, and last summer asked Bennett to sign a deed of rectification. If the deed of rectification wasn’t signed, the town stated it, would take legal action.
Beachstone Enterprises has used the old firehall since the purchase for the manufacture of cabinets and furniture.
In past articles in The Telegram, Bennett claimed the town was punishing him and his company because of the property deal, and was trying to run his manufacturing company from the island community. The water system in question is described as a small-scale water treatment system that pumps and treats water from the municipal supply and stores the water for residents to collect at their convenience.
The system was installed by the town a couple of years ago, and was cost-shared 90/10 by the provincial government and the town.