The power of proposals
Village council to decide whether proposal call goes ahead

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Jan 29/99) - After all was said and done at Monday's public meeting with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC), Fort Simpson village council now has a pivotal decision to make.

At its meeting on Monday, council will have to decide whether to follow through with a call for proposals for a power supplier or to pursue a franchise agreement with the NTPC.

With close to 100 people in attendance, the majority of the people who spoke at Monday's public meeting expressed frustration with the NTPC and demanded facts and figures justifying current power rates. Many of those numbers weren't made available -- such as the rate per kilowatt hour -- but the representatives from the NTPC said they'd release them as soon as possible. There were also concerns raised about the noise level from the plant, the need for a deal to use residual heat and the cost of a public utilities board intervention when a problem arises.

Despite the general level of dissatisfaction, Pun Chu, NTPC's director of operations for the Western Arctic, said the meeting accomplished its purpose.

"I think our objective here was to convey the information that the town has been requesting. I think we've done that," he said, adding that residents should now have a better understanding of the regulations, operations and procedures of the NTPC.

Chu also said the NTPC's goal was not to try to prevent the village from going to a call for proposals. That is the community's right, he acknowledged.

Bill Braden, NTPC's director of corporate development, had made a similar comment earlier in the evening.

"As we've said before, there's nothing in the law saying you have to deal with us," he said.

Chu had made it clear that the NTPC doesn't want to walk away, however. He said a franchise agreement "is one of our main objectives."

Just a few months ago, the NTPC and the village had a draft proposal for a franchise agreement ironed out. Under those terms, the village would have received approximately four per cent of the gross revenue or a flat franchise fee of $50,000. The increase to customers would have been 2.19 per cent, or roughly $7 per month. On Tuesday, Mayor Norm Prevost said he isn't sure what the cost of a proposal call would amount to, but the village wouldn't be stuck with the bill.

"We're not going to pick up any of the cost. It's up to the companies who want to come forward who want to give us a proposal," he said. "So it shouldn't be costing us any money."

Braden confirmed that the cost of developing a proposal will not be reflected back on Fort Simpson's power rates by the NTPC, should it be the successful bidder. However, he suggested that the village will likely incur costs to hire an expert or team of experts to analyse the incoming proposals.