West Lincoln greenhouse operator due restitution
By Mike Williscraft
Niagara Peninsula Energy overstepped its bounds and acted in a heavy-handed fashion in dealing with a West Lincoln greenhouse operator’s livelihood, says Niagara West Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak.
Hudak has taken up the cause of Rex Ge, operator of G & L Nursery on Hwy. 20, who had his hydro cut off in late February when a $360 portion of his bill was 48 days overdue.
The result of the disconnection froze all the contents of his greenhouse and damaged his heating and watering system beyond repair. Damage has been estimated at $150,000.
“Without a doubt this is a massive screw up with no common sense or good judgment or good business conduct used,” said Hudak.
“Mr. Ge has been left with a catastrophic loss that put him out of business for an overdue bill that was less than 60 days past due and for less than $400.”
Hudak said he has written letters and spoken directly to Ontario’s Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli, as well as address the matte with the highest levels of the Ontario Energy Board and Niagara Peninsula Energy.
“NPE has a duty to be fair here and make restitution,” said Hudak.
Hudak noted the OEB has told him local utilities can set their own guidelines and shutting off power is within their control.
“Yes, they can do it. However, this is a guy who has paid his bills on time. To cut him off was just stupid,” said Hudak, who added that he has dealt with many hydro-related concerns in his 20 years as an MPP but never seen anything egrigious as this case.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. And part of my concern is that the NPE’s PR department is hiding behind the letter of the law.”
When NewsNow broke the story March 12, NPE’s vice-president customer service Margaret Battista said the company followed its protocols.
Ge, who has had an excellent payment record as a customer for 13 years, said all he needed was a knock on his door as opposed to disconnection notices being left in his roadside rural mailbox. The notices went unnoticed due to a series of health issues, both his own and his ailing parents in China who he went to care for over an extended period.
Battista did not say anything about their representative going to Ge’s door but weeks later in a a radio interview she claimed their rep did knock on Ge’s door, twice.
Ge said that was not possible since snow on his step was undisturbed.
Regardless, Hudak says NPE needs to correct the matter.
“They crossed the line of any kind of good judgment. It is never too late to do the right thing. They have to make it right,” said Hudak.