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GNWT denies Northland residents no-interest loan
City councillors pushing to get agreement with condo corporation

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The territorial government has denied a request from the city for an interest-free loan to address the cost of replacing aging water and sewer lines at Northland Trailer Park.

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Cheryl Fountain: Vice-chair of the Citizens for Northland group. -

But city councillors are pushing ahead to see that the problems are fixed soon.

The city had asked the NWT Housing Corporation for help to fix the costly infrastructure problems. Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger said the loan was refused Monday because there is no territorial policy base and no fiscal room to provide the money.

"If we made this agreement, we would set a very significant precedent that we are not in a position to afford," said Miltenberger. "Fundamentally, now that we have explored all levels of government, this comes back to being a municipal issue that has to be sorted within the confines of the municipal boundaries of Yellowknife."

Miltenberger says the GNWT remains open to ideas about how it could help but is doubtful there are options.

"I don't think there is a stone unturned that I am aware of within the GNWT," he said. "The federal government has come back with their response as well and said it doesn't qualify under the programs they have applied for. I'm not sure what folks have in mind, but the request to us - a no-interest loan - the answer is no."

Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro said Tuesday she is disappointed with the decision and said it comes down to a lack of political will by the GNWT.

"I think, bottom line, I expected better from our government," she said. "From what I have heard for reasons for refusal, I can't agree with him."

This is the second blow for Northland residents this month after the federal government turned down a request for green infrastructure funding to replace the water and sewer lines last week.

Both governments left the city with few options. Mayor Gord Van Tighem said Tuesday the city's "preferred method" is to have a "local improvement charge" which would cover the costs of the city borrowing money for the project. The charge would have each Northland homeowner pay $455 per month for 25 years if the full estimated cost of repairs reaches $20 million.

"Northland as a condominium corporation is all private property and therefore the condo board with a pool of their owners - through a plebiscite or petition - have to agree to it," said Van Tighem.

Under territorial legislation, 66 per cent of members would have to approve a city repayment plan for it to move ahead. The city's plan calls for the condo corporation to be dissolved if Northland residents agree to the loan repayment agreement.

"I can't see that being accepted by the condo corp membership," said Coun. Shelagh Montgomery on Tuesday. "I think there are probably some areas where some economies can be made, where we lighten up on the paving and sidewalks, which is probably a multi-million dollar task in itself."

Coun. Bob Brooks was also not hopeful that this requirement could be met.

"I'm not optimistic," he said. "There has to be at least 66 per cent that say yes and from what I understand they have had a lot of trouble get quorums to the meetings. There has been factions at Northland that feel they shouldn't pay for anything. If 34 per cent said, 'no, we won't do anything,' then the other 66 are going to be in trouble."

Cheryl Fountain, a resident and vice-chair of the Citizens for Northlands group, said she also does not foresee an agreement to local improvement charge.

"I feel there is a level of government at administration level that is basically telling us that Northlands is responsible to make the next move," Fountain said.

"Our argument is that at $455 a month, it is going to be hard to get people to agree to pay that a month. That has to be lowered before we get agreement on a plebiscite. If everyone says 'no, we can't move forward.'"

Brooks says he wants to ensure that a deal is made between the two parties which will be agreeable to Yellowknife residents as well.

"Residents of the city of Yellowknife and other council members have said that the residents are not willing to foot the bill for this," he said.

Brooks suggested the responsibility of ownership could be transferred from the condo corporation to the city after the infrastructure is fixed, that there be a dissolution of the condo corporation, that homeowners be given a fee simple title, that taxes in Northland would increase if the city takes on the in-house costs of engineering design, and that some city standards for paving and sidewalks be lowered.

Resident Lorraine Hewlett said she met with a number of Northland residents Monday evening and noted there was a lot of disappointment among neighbours.

"There was an incredible amount of disappointment on all fronts that there was no funding from the feds or the GNWT and no give from the city administration," Hewlett said. "I'm believing less and less that there is a political solution to all of this, especially after (Monday)."

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