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'Too many unknowns'

Dez Loreen
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Nov 03/06) - Inuvik's new mayor and council want to take a better look at a $500,000 expansion of the town's recreation complex that's being proposed by outgoing mayor Peter Clarkson.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Roger Israel, Peter Clarkson and Derek Lindsay, from left, stand outside the Inuvik Family Centre. A plan is being made to develop and construct a full-service kitchen to cater to large events that are hosted in the complex. - Dez Loreen/NNSL photo

The proposal calls for a full commercial kitchen to serve banquets for up to 350 people, new audio-visual equipment and other upgrades to the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex.

Clarkson has lined up $50,000 from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) under the territorial Tourism 2010 initiative to develop Inuvik as a convention destination.

As well, an application for $400,000 was sent to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada this past summer. Clarkson has also asked for $100,000 from the community capacity building fund.

"This project has all sorts of potential," said Clarkson, whose term as mayor ends on Nov. 6.

"We are working on funding agreements. It could take a while for approval."

According to ITI regional superintendent Roger Israel, the aim is to increase the number of large conferences held in Inuvik by two each year for the next five years. He said the plan came out of a series of public meetings.

"Many national associations hold their conferences in places like Banff, this could give them an option for a more unique location," said Israel.

"A target is hosting a large conference each month."

Altaph Lakhani, the manager of aboriginal economic development with Indian and Northern Affairs said the project is important.

"A key piece that is missing in their building is a commercial kitchen," said Lakhani.

Members of the town's incoming council are not sold on the project and plan to review it when they meet for the first time on Nov. 6.

"No one ever came to council and told us that a half million dollars was available to improve our tourism," said Coun. Terry Halifax.

"Peter (Clarkson) came to council with the idea, with no plan, no blueprints. It was an eleventh hour deal. It seemed like the only way we would get the funding is to approve the proposal right away," said Halifax

"If they came up to us with that money, I would have said to use the money to make an office and hire some people to take care of the tourism."

Halifax said the only time the kitchen proposal was ever in front of council was when both Clarkson and Israel were out of town.

"Two reps from ITI came in with a presentation about improving Inuvik as a conference destination," said Halifax.

"A motion was brought forward. It read, 'Do you support improving Inuvik as a conference destination.' Everyone voted against it."

Halifax said the project could go through, but more planning should be done first.

"Maybe the kitchen is a good idea, but they did all this through the back door," said Halifax.

"There are too many unknowns to just rubber stamp a project like that."

New Mayor Derek Lindsay said the kitchen project is too much, too fast.

"I want to put a hold on this project for now," said Lindsay.

"We have to find out what is required for equipment, then look at how much it will cost. After that, we will look at the design to decide how big it should be.

"We need to do our homework. We should be looking for consequences that will arise."

Lindsay said he does not approve of any capital projects at this time.

"We have to find funding first," he said.