Open for business? That depends

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To the Editor:

I was astounded to see, in the Advance, Volume 68, No. 42 (Thursday, October 20, 2016) that the Town of Creston had taken out a full-colour, half-page ad in celebration of Small Business Week.  The Town thanked businesses for their contribution to the economy, and claimed they were “open for business”.

Let me share a recent experience our small company has had, and let the public decide if the Town of Creston is really open for business.

An inquiry instigated by our company’s bookkeeper led to the Town discovering an oversight in their billing of utilities for our apartment building.  The Town could have sent our bookkeeper flowers and gleefully rubbed their hands together in anticipation of all the future revenue she had uncovered for their coffers, but no.

Instead, our company was back-billed for the Town’s oversight – for nearly $8500.  We have paid half that amount – this year’s assessment – and protested the rest, as we have no way to recoup that loss.  Though both Ron Toyota and Steffan Klassen apologized for the Town’s error, and told me “felt terrible”, they were steadfast about back-billing being the Town’s policy.

However, when I asked to see that policy in writing, it turns out it doesn’t exist in writing.  There is a bylaw concerning water and sewer, but it doesn’t govern this situation.  Since property taxes aren’t governed, our utility levy was conveniently rolled into the unpaid tax category.

The Town is so sure their position is defendable because they consulted with a law firm to figure out how not to do the fair thing.  That consultation would be at the expense of the Creston taxpayer (as was the recent ad), and no doubt cost a portion of the protested part of our bill.  Great supporters of local businesses that they are, did the Town hire a local law firm that pays taxes here and hire local people?  Did they support the economy of the Kootenays, at all?  No, their law firm of choice was the Vancouver-based Lidstone and Company.

What do I think about hiding behind policy, in a way that causes financial hardship to a small business that has paid taxes here, employed local people and contributed to the Creston economy for over 20 years over the Town’s own admitted error?  Unconscionable.

Open for business? That seems to depend on which business you are.  We currently have put a major project on hold because of the very discouraging business climate in the Town of Creston.

Collette Caron

Rob Shatzko Construction