Big decisions ahead for new council

Ramona Kelly leaves the Don Stewart Recreation Centre after voting in the municipal election and plebiscite Oct. 19.

Ramona Kelly leaves the Don Stewart Recreation Centre after voting in the municipal election and plebiscite Oct. 19.

The incoming town council will largely be made up of the same faces, with Brad Mapes moving from councillor’s chair to the mayor’s chair and the addition of Steve Anderson, who was acclaimed along with his councillor colleagues.

It’s a council already well-versed in the issues it will have to confront in the coming months: establishing another budget, dealing with staff vacancies, moving forward with the rec centre rebuild and continuing on a power franchise decision.

The new council is set to be sworn in Nov. 9 at town hall at the regular 7 p.m. meeting time.

Coun. Keith Dohey told The Hub there will be some changes as council adapts to Brad Mapes’ leadership style, but otherwise he doesn’t see much changing.

“We are essentially the same council with the addition of one more. Brad was part of the team on council and now he’s the mayor, so I don’t see any real major changes in the direction of council,” he said.

Now that voters have approved borrowing up to $15 million to extensively renovate the Don Stewart Recreation Centre, council needs to move toward the next steps.

Coun. Jason Coakwell, who has led the build committee studying the project, said before that can even happen, they have to get back around the table for the first time since the vote.

“We haven’t even had a chance to meet, so we’ll see what (the priorities are) once we get all sworn in,” he said. “We’ll look to Mr. Mapes to set the agenda and get us started.”

The former council, chaired by defeated Mayor Andrew Cassidy, was expected to meet again Monday.

According to an agenda for the meeting, the topics included a land sale, appointment of an acting senior administrative officer and discussion of the next steps on the Don Stewart Recreation Centre rehabilitation project.

Scotty Edgerton, who began as acting SAO on Oct. 23, is expected to remain in that position until late January.

Other key director-level positions are vacant, including public works. Mapes has said there’s a pressing need to fix vacant town hall positions.

“We need to figure out how we can attract people to these director-level positions so we can get leadership back in the town and have that ripple down into the workforce.”

 

Power decision coming up

Dohey said one of the big decisions is whether to switch to another company for the power franchise agreement, which sets out who distributes electricity in town.

Northland Utilities has had that agreement but council issued a request for proposals seeking other companies who might be able to provide the service at a cheaper cost. Both the NWT Power Corporation, which generates the power distributed by Northland, and energy consultant Richard Lafferty have also bid on the contract.

In September, a municipal committee sought to have Northland provide a valuation of its assets in town.

“We need to be able to make a decision on that,” Dohey said. “Hopefully sooner rather than later.”

While the majority of council remains, the new mayor has promised to carry out town business in a different manner.

Mapes campaigned on a platform largely built on openness and transparency – having fewer meetings about topics like contracts behind closed doors. Immediately after the election, he repeated that message.

“I want to work on moving this community ahead,” Coun. Vince McKay said about his plans for the new term. “Lately it seems like the government has been ignoring Hay River. I want to lobby the government more.”

Asked for specifics, he cited the community funding model that shows Municipal and Community Affairs isn’t providing municipalities across the territory with enough money to keep up with infrastructure demands. He also said there needs to be more emergency services funding.

Several other councillors contacted for their views about the upcoming term were not available by press time.