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Broisbriand chassidim fight $2-million water bill

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The insular Tash community is in a costly legal battle with Boisbriand over back taxes for water. [ photo]

MONTREAL — The Tash chassidic community of Boisbriand is asking leave from the Quebec Court of Appeal to appeal lower court decisions forcing it to pay a $2.1-million water tax bill.

On Dec. 20, a Quebec Court judge ruled that Boisbriand has the right to collect the debt from the community of about 3,000. Three similar court decisions favourable to the town were handed down in 2010 and 2011.

The latest ruling deals with the period since Jan. 1, 2011.

Marlène Cordato, mayor of the town of 26,000 25 kilometres north of Montreal, deplored the community’s latest attempt to forestall payment.

She issued a press release on Jan. 18 stating: “The judgment is clear: the Jewish community will no longer be able to take any means of defence as long as it has not paid the water taxes owing.

“We are happy with this new judgment. It confirms once again that no one can elude the law… Many citizens testified openly their discontent over this situation that we judge to be unequal. It is inconceivable to have two ways of interpreting the law, one for this community and the other for the citizens.”

Cordato said Boisbriand would intervene to prevent the appeal from being heard and will seek reimbursement from the Tashers for its defence costs, which reportedly have reached more than $500,000, a right confirmed in the December judgment.

The chassidic group, which lives in an enclave with its own institutions, has been in arrears on its water taxes since 2005. With interest and penalties, the bill has risen to its current staggering amount.

In seeking to appeal, the Tashers, represented by the Montreal law firm Lavery De Billy, claim that Quebec Court was not competent to judge this case and that it should have been heard in Superior Court.

The Tashers, who settled in the area 50 years ago, stopped paying the taxes because they think the town is not living up to a 1990 agreement on water supply,

According to their interpretation, water meters were to be installed on each of its residential and communal buildings.

Instead, they say, a single meter for all the buildings was installed at the entrance to the community’s enclave, and consumption is not being calculated accurately.

The courts have said that the law requires those contesting tax bills to pay the amount owing when demanded by the municipality and not wait until appeals have made their way through the judicial system.

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