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Council Briefs
One vote against energy system

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 18, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - The many uncertainties still surrounding the Con Mine community energy project left one councillor opposed to a bylaw authorizing the city to borrow up to $49 million.

Council passed the first reading of the bylaw Monday night.

Coun. David Wind was the only one in opposition.

He admits that he would like to see the project go forward, but says he can't "in good conscience" support the borrowing without the city clearing some of the unknowns first, like whether the project will have a geothermal component, or whether there will be private sector participation.

Wind also expressed concern over entering into borrowing without knowing how many building owners are actually going to hook into the system.

He said he can't justify voting in favour of authorizing the city to borrow such a large amount of money which requires voter approval as well, with so many uncertainties remaining.

On March 14, the city is holding a referendum to ask residents permission to borrow up to $49 million for the project. The community energy system, if completed, could potentially heat 39 downtown buildings with a mixture of wood-pellet boilers and geothermal heat generated by the earth beneath the defunct Con Mine. Even if residents vote in favour of the city moving ahead with the project, it doesn't mean it will borrow $49 million or any money at all. It will just give the city the option to continue moving forward.

Where's old housing study? Resident asks

Questions about why a housing market study conducted by the city in 2005 was never adopted or released to the public had one Yellowknifer demanding answers at the council meeting Monday night.

"All I want to know is, one, can you release it and, two, if you can't, why?" said Louie Azzolini, who pointed out that the study is a public document that should be available to the citizens of Yellowknife.

Bob Long, senior administrative officer for the city, said although the study has likely been superseded by numerous other studies in the past six years, he would look into it for Azzolini.

"I think it's just a matter of making sure the information that we present to the public is topical and timely and appropriate," he said. "I doubt there's anything secret in the report."

Coun. Paul Falvo told Azzolini he agreed with transparency and making the document available, but he questioned whether a six-year-old study would still be relevant to the people of Yellowknife.

Azzolini said the study, done by Euler Associates, is important because it speaks to ways of lowering land prices and housing prices in the city.

He said although the conclusions in the study run counter to the way the city has decided to deal with these issues, he feels residents should be able to see the other options, especially because the study was paid for with taxpayers' dollars.

"The conclusions will stand or fall on their own," he said.

Budget examination request

Disappointment stemming from the 2011 budget process led to council passing a motion for administration to examine the advantages of revising the city's budget policies.

The motion was brought forward Monday by Coun. David Wind, who has been expressing his frustration with the budget process since early in the deliberations last December.

With the city's expenditures significantly increasing in the last several years - resulting in consistent tax increases - Wind said the budgeting process needs to be changed to allow council a greater role in the process.

Couns. Bob Brooks, Amanda Mallon, Paul Falvo and Cory Vanthuyne supported the motion, while Couns. Mark Heyck, Shelagh Montgomery and Lydia Bardak were opposed.

"It's the decisions council makes throughout the year that have the big, big impacts on the budget," said Heyck. "So I'm not sure where we're at now is any different from what's being asked for here."

Winning with a five-to-three vote, Wind asked administration to bring forward the results of its analysis, including its recommended budget policy changes by Sept. 7, 2011.

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