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No movement on Northland woes
Residents yet to agree on $400-plus a month payments for water and sewer replacements

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 19, 2011

Northland residents say a solution presented by the city to replace their crumbling water and sewer lines is not financially feasible.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cheryl Fountain, a homeowner in Northland Trailer Park, says the city's proposal to replace the park's ailing infrastructure through a local improvement agreement is financially unfeasible for many members of the condominium corporation. - Ian Vaydik/NNSL photo

At the beginning of the summer, the city provided Northland Trailer Park's condo board with a local improvement agreement that would have the city borrow the necessary $18 million to fund the replacement of water and sewer lines, which were first installed in 1975. Members of Yellowknife Condominium Corporation No. 8 would then pay back the loan in monthly instalments.

Carl Bird, director of corporate services for the city, said the payments would range from $415 to $420 per month over a 25-year period.

Cheryl Fountain, a member of a new group called Citizens for Northlands and a homeowner in the park, said that's just too much money for most residents.

"People don't have a lot of money in Northlands. There's a lot of single parents. There's retired citizens. There's people with disabilities," she said.

"We do not have the financial means to take care of this issue ourselves. A lot of us are working poor and some of us have a little bit of extra money, but living in Yellowknife is very expensive."

The condo corporation, along with the City of Yellowknife, have applied for funding from the federal government, but after 15 months, have yet to receive word on their request. If the funding comes through, the monthly fee for a local improvement loan would be reduced.

There have been six waterline breaks in the park since March. The entire underground infrastructure of the trailer park, which houses 258 families, is 15 years past its expiry date and needs to be replaced, but because it's owned by the condominium corporation itself, not by the city, the corporation is expected to foot the bill.

For the local improvement agreement to be passed, 60 per cent of homeowners in the park have to approve it by signing a petition, but those 60 per cent of owners must represent at least 50 per cent of the assessed value of the corporation.

If the required number of signatures were collected, the borrowing would then come before city council in the form of a bylaw, which would require three readings and a public hearing.

Rebecca Alty, who is also a member of Citizens for Northland, said she knew about the petition, but she too thinks the monthly payments aren't affordable for most people in the park.

"The one thing that people don't realize, (condo fees) are not actually very low. It's $200 a month, but that doesn't include any utilities or if something happens on your property, like if your roof caves in on your trailer, that doesn't get fixed," said Alty.

Amanda Mallon is a city councillor dealing closely with the park. She said at the last meeting she attended with the board, everyone seemed to be enthusiastic about the city's proposal to enter into a local improvement agreement.

"The last meeting I came out of in the early summer, I left the meeting feeling that people were excited about the idea of finally getting on with something," she said.

"I felt that the momentum in the room. I really thought that that was something that they had agreed on and that it looked good and there were people walking out saying, 'Finally we're going to get some action.'"

Despite that initial enthusiasm, months have passed and the petition has not been returned to the city.

With winter approaching and the issue at a standstill, Coun. David Wind put forward a motion last Monday trying to push for action. The motion requests administration present council with an outline of what needs to happen, how it can happen and when it can happen by no later than Jan. 31, 2012. It also says construction must start no later than June 13, 2013 and must be finished no later than Dec. 31, 2015.

Councillors agreed the Northland issue needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later, but the inclusion of specific construction start and completion dates made Couns. Vanthuyne and Falvo leery.

Coun. Bob Brooks said the dates make him nervous too, but this is an issue that has to be addressed.

"There is definitely a need to fix the problem now before the infrastructure falls in the ground and the Department of Health (and Social Services) says, 'You guys have to leave.' That is a very real possibility, so we have to find a solution before that catastrophic event happens."

Wind's motion was referred to today's Municipal Services Committee meeting for further debate and discussion.

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