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Frustration inspires Northlanders
Crumbling infrastructure and delays in funding decisions some of the issues facing group

Terrence McEachern
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The ongoing concern over the crumbling infrastructure at Northland Trailer Park has inspired some residents to form a group aimed at raising community awareness of the issue as well as community morale.

NNSL photo/graphic

Rebecca Alty, left, Lorraine Hewlett, Vivian Hansen, Cheryl Fountain and Chris Thorn, front, are part of Citizens for Northlands at the group's barbecue Sept. 5. - Terrence McEachern/NNSL photo

"Lots of people in Northland are frustrated and angry," said Lorraine Hewlett, one of the founding members of Citizens for Northlands. "We have 258 households that are trapped in their homes and they can't sell. If that doesn't constitute being backed into a corner, I don't know what does."

Hewlett said the group started out with "three single moms and one of their daughters," referring to herself, Cheryl Fountain, Vivian Hansen and Vivian's daughter Rebecca Alty, who formed the group on Aug 13. Chris Thorn has since joined the group.

The group hosted a potluck and barbecue in the Yellowknife subdivision on Sept. 5 to introduce themselves and meet with residents one-on-one. With about 60 people on site at any given point, Fountain said she was happily surprised with the turnout.

"Building community is the biggest thing because with the people in Northland, spirits are very low," said Fountain. "A lot of us don't want to work on our houses and don't want to put money in them because of the infrastructure. We don't know what's happening."

It is estimated the subdivision needs $18 million in upgrades to its waterline and sewer infrastructure, first installed in 1975. As of March, six waterline breaks have hit the community. The Yellowknife Condominium Corporation No. 8 along with the City of Yellowknife, have applied for funding help from the federal government, but after 15 months, have yet to receive a response, said Hewlett.

In case the funding is denied, the group is meeting to try to think of alternative plans. "Personally, I feel like we're waiting for the goose to lay the golden egg, so we're trying to figure out some other plans," said Hewlett.

Fountain reiterated a familiar theme in the trailer park, that she didn't know of the infrastructure's problems when she purchased her home. Fountain's biggest concern is the potential environmental hazard the residents face if the sewer pipes break and contaminate the soil and drinking water. "They'll condemn this area (and) shut the water off. There is going to be 1,100 people without a place to live, and 600 of those people are kids," she said. "So where are they going to put us if we can't live in our homes?"

She suggested one possibility would be to shelter residents in the Multiplex if such an incident ever occurred, but added a concern of how long that could go on for.

"It scares the heck out of me and it scares the heck out of all these people ... we're going to be the next homeless people in Yellowknife - 1,100 people," said Fountain.

"It's like a crap shoot. It's like Russian roulette. You never know where the next break is going to come from, and it's pretty dire for a lot of people," added Hewlett.

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