One step closer
City following up on Northland purchase
How they voted
Vi Beck           -- in favor
Bob Brooks        -- left discussion
Trevor Kasteel    -- in favor
Blake Lyons       -- in favor
Jo MacQuarrie     -- in favor
Dick Peplow       -- opposed
Ruth Spence       -- opposed
Merlyn Williams   -- opposed

by Mark Sproxton
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 28/97) - Yellowknife city council voted 4-3 Tuesday in favor of continuing to explore the purchase of the city's electric company.

The vote, however, does not mean administration will spend up to $250,000 investigating a Northland Utilities deal, said administrator Doug Lagore.

"This recommendation does not approve a budget for this process so we would have to come back to council," he said.

The $250,000 figure was bandied about as a worst-case scenario, should the city and Northland fight the issue in court.

Those councillors who voted in favor -- Vi Beck, Blake Lyons, Trevor Kasteel, Jo MacQuarrie -- said they had to look further at the option if there were potential savings to Yellowknife residents.

Those opposed to the idea -- Dick Peplow, Ruth Spence, Merlyn Williams -- said it was either too expensive to pursue, or it didn't make sense to have a private utility made public.

Ald. Bob Brooks abstained from voting on the issues as there may be a perception of bias or conflict due to his job with the NWT Chamber of Commerce.

The city has already spent $55,600 on the issue.

At Monday's council meeting -- it was extended to Tuesday as well -- six people warned the city against buying the company. They included Al Brekke, manager of Northland Utilities Yellowknife Ltd. and company shareholder Jack Walker.

Only one presenter, businessman Ben McDonald, spoke in favor of a city-owned utility.

With a publicly-owned company there would be an avenue to replace people not working effectively, he said. That option doesn't exist with a privately owned company, McDonald added.

In earlier investigations into the issue, the city asked NWT Power Corporation for input.

The corporation's analysis listed five scenarios, including three in which the city acted as owner/operator. Its analysis projected a cost savings on distribution at 3.5 to 6.5 per cent over five years.

In 1991, the city renewed a franchise agreement with Centra Power (now Northland) for 10 years. Part of the agreement provided a purchase option for the city.

The city has until May 11 to decide if it will purchase Northland. The next chance to buy Northland won't occur until 2001.

An independent appraisal of Northland listed its value at $15.7 million. Northland disputes the figure, saying $18 million to $21 million is more accurate.

All parties, including representatives of the Public Utilities Board, are expected to take part in the next round of discussions.