The master of prevention
Tootoo makes sure things run smoothly around hamlet

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Jan 19/00) - It's no problem for Rankin Inlet's Barney Tootoo to come up with a golden rule to suit his job.

For him, an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure are words to live by.

A plumber by trade, Tootoo has been employed with the local department of public works for almost eight years.

The amicable handyman moving from building to building is a common sight around the hamlet. And thanks to the ever-present walkie-talkie, his arrival is almost always heralded by nerve-grating static.

"Building checks occupy most of my time, checking pumps, systems, that type of thing," says Tootoo.

"We have about 14 buildings to keep an eye on. We make sure all the heat's on and check the fans if there's air conditioning.

"Basically, we make sure everything's working the way it should."

Tootoo is also often spotted checking up on the Rankin utilidor.

He will stop in at the sewage plant or the Williamson Lake pump house to make sure pumps and boilers are, as he puts it, "running up to snuff."

When things do go wrong, Tootoo says DPW also takes care of most of the maintenance.

"I have my walkie-talkie with me all the time because one of us are always on call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Tootoo also feels right at home operating a backhoe.

He learned how to handle the equipment in Rankin and spent a long time as an operator for the hamlet and Y&C Enterprises Ltd.

During his time on the job, Tootoo has dealt with his share of messy affairs, but one in particular stands out in his mind.

"We had a water break behind the 70s blocks. There was water spewing all over the place after a valve had been accidentally ripped out of the ground.

"We had to spend a day just getting the ground thawed out before we could dig up the valve and replace it.

"That was wet work. Had it been sewer, I'd probably have a whole different story."

Tootoo's crackling radio directs him to another call, but before leaving, he borrows one more saying to describe his job.

"I guess you could say I really am a jack of all trades and a master of none," he says, grinning from ear to ear as he drives away.