Keep the boat afloat
Wrigley chief says his people shouldn't be target of cost-cutting measure

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

WRIGLEY (Oct 08/99) - Wrigley Chief Tim Lennie said Tuesday he will put a motion forward at the Deh Cho leadership assembly at the Hay River Reserve to lobby for an extension of the N'dulee ferry service.

The Department of Transportation has decided to end the ferry's seasonal run early -- on Oct. 15 -- as a cost-cutting measure, according to Les Shaw, director of marine services. In all likelihood, the ferry would only be able to operate for about another five or six days beyond Oct. 15 anyway, Shaw said.

"We had to identify savings within our budget this year so we don't go into a deficit next year," Shaw explained, adding that he expects it to be a one-year measure. "We're doing the best we can."

He said it's hoped that $5,000 to $10,000 will be saved due to the early shutdown, which was approved by cabinet. There are variables, such as wear and tear on the ferry, that could affect the overall savings but an early shutdown ensures there won't be any damage due to ice, Shaw added.

Lennie said there are community members, including students, who rely on the ferry and want to see it run as long as possible.

"If we have a low water level or ice and that shuts it down, I can see it, but not for funding. There are coffers somewhere," he said.

Last year, the last ferry run was on Nov. 3. Dating back to 1994-95 the successive final dates of operation were: Nov. 2, Oct. 10, Oct. 25 and Oct. 27.

Lennie said the Pehdzeh Ki Band was informed of this year's early shut down by fax earlier this week. He said the community should have been consulted about the matter much earlier.

"They've been treating our community that way for several years," he said.

Lennie questioned what the purpose of saving money would be if it's not used to maintain the existing infrastructure.

"They can't even maintain the road," he said.

Shaw said the Liard River ferry to Fort Simpson and the Mackenzie River ferry to Fort Providence will continue to operate as usual until ice build-up forces shut down. He said current indications are that the Liard River ferry, which always shuts down before the Mackenzie River ferry, could hold out until the third or fourth week of this month.