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‘This is not Russia’: Woman fumes after city moves fire hydrant to the middle of her front yard
April 10, 2017
By Jon Willing

Betty Duclos opens a beige folder titled “fire hydrant,” because this is a case that requires a proper log of puzzling events.

“This is not Russia. I’m paying my taxes. I should have a say,” Duclos, 77, says looking over documents on the table in her Kanata home. “Someone should have notified me, first of all.”

It all started Jan. 23 with a run-of-the-mill letter from the city, printed on a green paper designed to hang from door handles, that warned her about interrupted water service the next day, lasting between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

That was no surprise to Duclos. After all, the city maintains the water distribution system and it wouldn’t be the first time it needed to stop the water supply in this Beaverbrook neighbourhood to do the work.

On Jan. 24, Duclos left her Milne Crescent home around 8 a.m. for an appointment. She returned around 4:30 p.m.

In the time she was gone, city workers dug up a fire hydrant between her property and her neighbour’s property and relocated it smack-dab in the middle of the front yard, about six metres front her front stoop.

“Let me tell you, what a shock. I couldn’t believe it,” she says.

There was no warning that the city was relocating the fire hydrant from where it had been for the past 50 years - the same length of time Duclos has lived at her house - or that the hydrant would be plopped down on the edge of her garden.

There is a hitch, of course.

The hydrant is on city land, just like it was at its previous location between the properties.

And that’s exactly what she heard from the city. Three weeks passed since her first call to 311.

The city had to move the hydrant because of interfering tree roots and workers simply didn’t have anywhere else to put it, Duclos was eventually told.

“At least you won’t have any cars parked in front of your house,” a city worker said, according to an unamused Duclos.

So, she’s left with a hydrant in the middle of the yard and a smear of gravel where there grass was.

In an email to Postmedia, water services director Tammy Rose says the city had to move the hydrant because it’s old and corroding. Parts are no longer available for that style of hydrant, she says.

The city chose the location in the middle of the yard because it’s accessible to firefighters and city services. Rose says staff considered the underground utilities, large trees, tree roots, accessibility and visibility when choosing the new hydrant location.

Rose says the city’s procedures call for staff to return the excavated parts to the same grade as the surrounding area using top soil and grass seed. That work usually begins in May and continues through the fall.

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson knows all about the hydrant hassle, since her office received an email from Duclos.

There’s not much the councillor can do, though. The city isn’t required to tell anyone about relocating a hydrant on its own land.

Wilkinson says the city should warn homeowners about a hydrant installation, just like staff tell homeowners about dying trees on nearby city land that need to be chopped down.

“I think it would be better that they let people know,” Wilkinson says at her City Hall office.

Duclos, who keeps her gardens professionally manicured, worries that the value of her home will be impacted by the hydrant’s unfortunate location.

Even if she can’t get the hydrant moved somewhere else, Duclos says it’s a good lesson for all homeowners to understand where the line is between private property and the city’s property.

Still, it would have been nice to get a little heads up from the city, Duclos says.

“I don’t think they thought about it,” she says.