Budget banter
Public forum goes smoothly

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Feb 04/00) - Despite some concern regarding its consultative process, Inuvik Town Council staged a successful budget forum.

Most of the council members as well as a dozen department heads were in council chambers discussing the proposed 2000 operating budget bylaw Thursday night.

"Three years ago in Yellowknife I got the idea for holding a public forum to discuss the budget," said Mayor George Roach in opening the meeting.

"We felt that if our council could get the budget out early enough, we could do it."

The questionable aspect of the council's approach was the bill, which includes a two per cent tax hike, had already passed first and second readings last month, and awaits only a third before it becomes law. Some members of the public had consequently complained the proposed forum lacked substance because it came too late to affect the outcome, and that copies of the proposal weren't made available to the public early enough to facilitate debate.

The forum, however, went smoothly, with only five members of the public on hand. Town comptroller Jerry Veltman provided a summary of the budget -- the town plans to take in as much as it spends this year -- which is just over $4.1 million.

Increases in the budget included the cost of solid waste management jumping from $130,000 to $190,000, a rise explained by Roach.

"There was a conscious decision made by council to clean-up the town dump," he said, "though there wasn't a lot of success because of the number of buildings being torn down around town ... as well as the added cost of putting out a fire that was burning under the surface."

Arlene Hansen and David Musselwhite were two members of the public who raised issues with council and helped generate a list of things to be done this year. Among the resolutions, summarized by senior administrative officer Don Howden, was a need for the town to better maintain its paved roads, or scrap them altogether; better enforcement of building and development permits; the examination of fines for failing to clear sidewalks of snow or failing to properly maintain garbage dumpsters; and the consideration of billing businesses separately from residences for garbage collection.

The forum also produced the decision to hold an open meeting in March to study the feasibility of and gain support for a year-round swimming pool. Despite the fact that it was determined the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex operates at a cost of approximately $250,000, both Hansen and some council members agreed the benefits of both the complex and the proposed pool cannot be measured in dollars alone.

"Maybe the arena only brings in $40,000 (in ice rental), but every time I'm in there kids are doing constructive things as opposed to being somewhere else doing something destructive," said Hansen.

Hansen and recreation co-ordinator Theresa Ross also pointed to an existing survey showing the majority of respondents calling for the year-round pool.

"It's something that can be used by everyone, from cradle to grave -- it's not just for one group," said Hansen. "With industry coming back to town, now's the time to look at it."