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Mark Rendell

City Briefs: Whistleblower Protocol, Seniors Tax Breaks, Grace Lake

The latest City Hall action

Council seems keen to increase protection for employees lodging complaints against the City or City staff, though whether or not these whistleblowers will have anonymity remains to be seen.

The idea was proposed by Coun. Adrian Bell back in November, “not in response to specific situations, just a general need for a confidential complaints/feedback mechanism,” he told EDGE at the time. Today, Council is leaning towards bringing in a third-party complaints management system that would cost roughly $9000 a year.

"This is an opportunity for us to take a position as leaders on this type of endeavour."

“I understand that there may not be many other communities our size who have a third-party set-up, but it occurs to me, that at a cost of $9000 or $12,000 a year, I think this is an opportunity for us to take a position as leaders on this type of endeavour.”

The third-party “Clearview System” would allow people to file complaints anonymously, though administration and several councillors seemed wary of going this route. As the memo says: allowing anonymous comments, “would certainly make it easier for people to make complaints but would also make it easier for people to make frivolous or vexatious complaints without any consequences to those people.

“Anonymous reporting could cause problems with innocent employees being attacked by frivolous complaints,” the memo continues. “Instituting a type of program that allows anonymous complaints could be viewed as a statement of mistrust towards management and senior management at the City, as well as Council.”

Rather than bring in an anonymous third-party system, admin suggested that council simply update their current Ethical Conduct for City of Yellowknife Employees guidelines “to include a more comprehensive and defined whistleblowing procedure.”

The councillors in favour of anonymous reporting – a majority – however, dismissed this idea.

“I don’t think people will get crazy and start doing anonymous posts that are vexatious. I hope we have a workforce that’s a little bit more mature than that,” said Coun. Rebecca Alty.

Council is set to vote on the issue in two weeks.

Summer construction in Grace Lake South

Tonight, Council will vote whether to move ahead with the development of the new upscale subdivision on the south side of Grace Lake this summer.

The City hopes to award a construction tender for the development’s first phase – 31 of 81 lots – in May and begin road construction in August.

The estimated price for the whole project is just over $4 million, which includes blasting, grading, paving and fire suppression, among other things. “All development costs, including the fire suppression option, will be recovered in the sale price of the lots,” according to the memo.

Right now the average lot price is being estimated at $132,000. Though the memo notes that “lot prices will be confirmed once the roadway has been put to tender… [and that] Grace Lake North lots appraised between $127,000 to $212,000 per lot, and this thus became the listing price.”

“If lot sales proceed at the pace of Grace Lake North, the development costs will be recouped quickly,” it adds.

The ballot draw for the lots is scheduled to take place in September.   

Boosting seniors tax benefits

Council may consider boosting tax relief for seniors. The idea was proposed today by Coun. Julian Morse, who said he’d heard during the election that the current $2000 cap hadn’t been increased in 10 years.

As it stands, seniors receive a 50 percent reduction on municipal taxes up to a total of $2000. The City provides up to $1000 of that relief, an amount matched by the GNWT.

“If we were to look into changing this program I believe the territorial legislation …[allows] the benefit up to 50 percent of taxes, so I’m just wondering if there’s a reason why the benefit is currently capped at $1000 by the City?” asked Morse.

Jeff Dalley, the City’s director of finance and administration, says the relevant bylaw was adopted in 2002, though parts of the bylaw have been updated since then. Beyond that, “the $1000 probably stems back from the Senior Citizens and Disabled Persons Property Tax Relief Act, which looks to be 1988.”

Morse said he would work on a motion in the coming weeks directing administration to look into the impacts of raising the tax relief cap.