City Briefs: Fixing Sewage and Tracking Downtown Changes

The Municipal Services Committee had about $4.5 million dollars worth of contracts on its plate yesterday, while city administration butted heads with council over a memorandum to measure changes in the downtown core. During its evening session, council approved purchase of a $2 million refrigeration system for the Community Arena, and got administration moving on a short-term solution to the Highway 4 safety problem.

Rebuilding shattered sewers and paving unpaved streets

Proposals were brought forward to replace a few of the city’s ailing water and sewage systems, specifically those on Horton Crescent and Forrest Drive. Forrest Drive’s sewage collapsed back in July 7, 2014. The City had to effect emergency repairs, while a resident of Horton Crescent has successfully sued the city regarding their water system. Replacing the two systems will cost the city about $3.4 million dollars.

The City wants to replace the entire system in both places. “To perform this work in pieces, as has been done in the past, will only address part of the existing problems and will require future repairs sooner than if the entire street is upgraded,” according to the memo prepared by Public Works and Engineering.

Right now, however, the City still needs to get the money together. “We still need around $686,000,” said Coun. Dan Wong. He speculated on possible sources, including leftover money from other projects or some of the extra money that council cut from their last budget. If the money isn’t laying around, however, “we’ll have some tough choices to make,” said Wong.

The City also brought forward a million-dollar proposal to pave Utsingi Drive. Public Works and Engineering wants only Utsingi Drive paved and 50th Street left alone. In doing so, they hope to save about $800,000, which they want to put towards replacing the sewage and water systems, while buying time to explore other options for 50th Street and finishing work on 52nd Avenue.

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To track, or not to track

The Communications and Economic Development department butted heads with council over a memorandum on whether or not to approve a list of measures for the downtown core. Director of Communications and Economic Development Nalini Naidoo outlined three objections raised by her department:

  • The time required to establish a year of baseline information exceeds the time available to the department.
  • The research required to develop the outlined metrics was based on cities with larger populations than Yellowknife’s, and similarly sized cities don’t have that data.
  • The Economic Development Strategy and the Tourism Strategy were based on what the city can reasonably deliver.

Coun. Adrian Bell was quick to challenge the department. “The Economic Development Strategy is city-wide; these metrics are for the downtown,” he pointed out. He also mentioned that the department had been given a “wishlist” by council, which included measurements that may well prove to be impossible to acquire, and that the department was supposed to go through them and come back with a workable list. “That didn’t happen,” said Bell.

“I think it’s critical we take the time to take stock,” he added. He also pointed out that “if this work takes a week the first time, it’ll take a day the next time.”

Coun. Rebecca Alty added her support to the plan. “We need indicators to see if our programs are working.”

The department will come back to council with the memo in two weeks time.

Refrigeration needs to pass through the Fire

The city’s plan to purchase a $2 million refrigeration system for the Community Arena may have hit a bit of an administrative delay. The plan is currently pending approval from the Fire Marshal before it can go ahead, though it’s already been approved by council. “It’s very rare that we get sent back to the drawing board, it’s usually just a few tweaks,” said Dennis Kefelas.

The motion was approved by all but Coun. Niels Konge, who cited concerns with the way the project was first conceived. “As a public entity, I think we need to be more transparent about the way we do things,” said Konge.

The RFP for the project was drafted by Cimco Refrigeration, the same company that will be providing the refrigeration system.

The plan to fix Highway 4

City administration will be meeting with the GNWT’s Department of Transportation to look for short- and long-term solutions to the ongoing Highway 4 safety issue.

Administration will then return to council with a list of possible solutions to the problems outlined last week.

The City is also looking at taking over ownership of the highway from the GNWT, “but that won’t be for years,” said Wong. He also cautioned that the City needs to be sure that the highway won’t be an undue liability on the part of the taxpayers before council can proceed with such a plan.

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