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GUEST OPINION: Summerside councillor responds to Dixie Lee account

Customers leave Dixie Lee in downtown Summerside on Thursday afternoon. The fried chicken franchise is owned by Mayor Basil Stewart and his son, Major Stewart.
Customers leave Dixie Lee in downtown Summerside last month. The fried chicken franchise is owned by Mayor Basil Stewart and his son, Major Stewart. - Bradley Works

Justin Doiron
Guest opinion

Regarding the recent situation with respect to our City of Summerside utility customers, I took a few days to review my own personal thoughts to make sure they didn't interfere with the thoughts and actions that I am obligated to take on behalf of our residents. 

Firstly, as soon as council was made aware of the situation regarding Dixie Lee the week of July 13, we took immediate action and directed our CEO to investigate the claims right away. Upon doing so, we immediately directed management to implement a payment plan (which is something the city attempts to do with all its utility customers in arrears). 

This plan was accepted by both the utility customer and council. This issue is about trust just as much as it is about money, and has caused the mayor and council to be very divisive. 

However, at the end of the day, we as councillors are sworn to represent the residents of our city, and no one else. It is unfair that a customer owing $90 may be given a worse penalty than one owing thousands, and that is the type of situation we are hoping to avoid going forward. 

Every customer facing difficult times is offered the opportunity to come up with a schedule that suits them and the utility, and why this one was able to continue to receive service for so long after that point is disappointing to me. This customer has until mid-October to pay the outstanding amount, and any deviation from that plan will be met with action from council. 

Jim Day said in his Guardian article that, "None of the phone messages left by The Guardian on the cellphones of the other members of council were returned." However, I did call Jim back, on July 23 at 8:09 p.m., and we spoke. Why he chose to say that I did not return his call is beyond me. 

When all is said and done, I truly hope this doesn't affect where you do business in our city. Regardless of who is involved in this specific instance, situations like these affect families who are trying to make a go of it, and it is extremely unfair for people to become shamed and embarrassed because of it. It never should have gotten this far in the first place, and I would like to acknowledge our CAO who has been very up -front with council since the situation came to light. 

Make no mistake that council does not discriminate or play favourites. This was and is a very serious situation and we would have and will be taking the same action regardless of who was or is involved. The allegation that council received "kickbacks" from this or any other piece of news that people don't agree with is absolutely laughable at best and a poor attempt at creating news and gossip. 

Justin Doiron is the Summerside councillor for Ward 2: St. Eleanors-Slemon Park.


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