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Council considers tax break for men's shelter

Peter Crnogorac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 01/06) - The majority of the city's Priorities, Planning and Budget Committee on Monday supported the idea of giving a proposed Yellowknife men's shelter funding over five years.

The City of Yellowknife tabled that council provide a grant to the future owner and operator of Bailey House - the equivalent of 50 per cent of its property taxes for a period of five years.

The funding is to start when the home is completed.

The shelter is a three-way partnership between the Yellowknife Homeless Coalition, the Salvation Army and the City of Yellowknife.

The old fire hall on Franklin Avenue near the Salvation Army is to be demolished to make way for Bailey House.

Coun. Mark Heyck supported the proposal to help fund Bailey House.

"I'm very much in favour of this," he said.

However, the most vocal backer of the plan was Coun. Kevin Kennedy.

"This is a rare opportunity to influence problems in our city..." he said. "I think we should put our money where our mouth is and spend some money."

Coun. Paul Falvo followed suit.

"I think this is a way for us to get at the root of the social problems in our city," he said.

City administration told council that taxes for the future home will be about $54,000 a year. The five-year funding would be half of that estimated amount per year.

Coun. David Wind had some questions of his own before committing either way to the funding proposal.

He said that he wasn't fully comfortable with giving a grant to the home because it wouldn't follow the protocol for establishing city grants.

Coun. Dave McCann said he wanted to hear more on the issue before making his stance clear. He added that he was concerned how the funding would fit within the overall 2007 budget.

When the two councillors concluded their points, Kennedy said, "We shouldn't try to save money on the backs of the homeless."

The city is initiating the tax funding because the estimated operation and maintenance costs for the proposed facility and its programs are showing a deficit of $125,600.

According to city administration, the $54,000 property tax per year is a major cause of this estimated shortfall.

Before discussion began amongst council members on Monday, Coun. Lydia Bardak, who is also co-chair of the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition, said she doesn't see a conflict of interest in her dual role because she will not financially benefit from any decision. She was silent for the majority of the discussion, only answering direct questions from council members.

"The Yellowknife Homeless Coalition, will they have anything to do with being the owner-operator," Coun. Bob Brooks asked Bardak.

"We are now in negotiations with the Salvation Army to be the owner-operator," Bardak said.

Addressing his fellow councillors, Brooks said, "I then don't have a problem with the chair of the homeless coalition being in conflict because they're not the owner- operator."