- Category: news
- Created: Monday, 07 October 2013 14:19
- Published: Monday, 07 October 2013 14:19
- Written by Administrator 3
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Manitoba Hydro won't go to Cross Lake First Nation in dispute over unpaid bills
A family in the remote Manitoba community of Cross Lake is without electricity or heat, as it is caught in the middle of a dispute between the local First Nation and Manitoba Hydro.
Kathy Muskego says she and her family have been without power since Thursday, after a fuse burnt out at a nearby transformer.
Muskego said even though she pays her Hydro bills, the utility refuses to conduct any repairs in Cross Lake.
Manitoba Hydro says it has not been servicing the reserve because some residents have threatened its workers, while the band council says the utility isn't going there because hundreds of people owe money for old bills.
"I'm paying for everybody's mistakes," Muskego said Sunday.
For now, Muskego said she's using a generator, but that's getting expensive — since Thursday, she has had to pay $160 for gas to keep it running, she said.
"It's running in my bedroom all night. That's all I hear when I sleep," she said.
Hydro barred from disconnecting homes
Tommy Monias, a Cross Lake First Nation council representative, told CBC News that 281 people in the community have not paid their Hydro bills, with some owing thousands of dollars stretching back years.
Four houses had their power disconnected over unpaid bills, so band officials sent Manitoba Hydro a letter ordering it not to send crews to the reserve to disconnect any more homes.
Monias alleged that Hydro is now refusing to go to the reserve for any reason, as long as crews are barred from going there to disconnect homes.
A Manitoba Hydro spokesperson says crews won't go to Cross Lake because staff have been threatened by people there.
"All normal services have been halted at Cross Lake because collection agents [from Cross Lake] have been threatened and [the] Hydro office has been blockaded because of collection activity," the spokesperson stated in an email to CBC News.
So, while Monias said people should not have to suffer, he admitted that paying Hydro customers with problems — like Muskego — will have to suffer for now.
"If that's the case, I guess that will be the case, and I'm saying that's the way it is," he said.
Discussions are underway
First Nation officials and Manitoba Hydro say they are in discussions to resolve the dispute.
Frank Whitehead, the NDP MLA for The Pas, says he will do his best on Monday to have Muskego's electricity restored.
"I would not want to see paying customers suffer from this, and I want to see service restored, but it has to be done through discussions with the local government," he said.
"I don't want people to suffer because of the disputes," he added.
"I represent the government, but I'm also the MLA and I represent the people there, too. I want to see a [resolution] on the issue as soon as possible."
In the meantime, Muskego said she's worried about the weather getting colder. Overnight temperatures in Cross Lake have already dipped below 0 C, she said.
"The snow's going to be falling anytime now, and I can't heat up my house with a little heater," she said.