Another delay by a territorial department is once again causing frustration for the Town of Hay River.
This time the issue is the town’s attempt to lease land to build another lift station, which is a multimillion-dollar project that the town says is a badly-needed part of the sewage system.
During their June 2 online meeting, councillors were told that approval to lease the land from the territorial government has been delayed by a consultation process just begun by the Department of Lands.
Mayor Kandis Jameson noted an application was made in March of last year, but the consultation process began just over a month ago.
Jameson said she does not understand why the consultations didn’t start sooner, and has discussed the matter with the minister of Lands.
“So I made the suggestion that they need to revamp their way of doing business because, as in this case, it certainly threw a wrench into the proceedings,” the mayor said.
Judy Goucher, the town’s senior administrative officer, provided more detail on the consultation process.
“I can confirm that the territorial government did go out for consultation on April 30 and they allowed extra time because of Covid,” she said, noting the responses are to be back by mid-July. “It’s fairly extensive consultation. It’s Northwest Territories-wide, as opposed to within the Town of Hay River and surrounding area.”
Goucher expressed confidence that the lease application will be approved, noting that the town already has letters of support from the Hay River Metis Government Council and K’atlodeeche First Nation on the Hay River Reserve.
The Department of Lands itself has also provided written support for the lease, pending the consultation process and a review of any submissions.
The delay in the lease approval process has pushed the lift station project back a year.
Goucher said the town had originally hoped the Department of Lands would approve the lease application midway through 2019.
“Now it’s looking more like midway through 2020 and, as a result, we’re seeing creep in terms of the schedule,” she said. “So we are not going to be able to commission in March 2021 as we planned. It’s actually going out to early 2022.”
The delay in leasing the land also left council in the curious position on June 2 of being asked by town administration to award a tender for the lift station without first officially having the land on which it would be built.
Despite some misgivings about that, council did approve a tender valued at $5.8 million from Rowe’s Construction, one of four companies to bid on the project.
Mike Auge, the town’s director of public works, noted there would be options in a contract to allow the town to deal with the “unlikely” event the land is not available.
The lot that the town is hoping to lease for the lift station is located on the northeast corner of the Studney Drive and Poplar Road intersection. The town is planning on using half of that lot for the lift station.
If the targeted land is ultimately not available, Auge noted the project might be able to be built on some other land in the general area.
Coun. Keith Dohey blasted GNWT inaction on the land lease application as a “total blunder” from the beginning.
“The Department of Lands, every friggin’ time we come up against them on anything the wall goes up out of Yellowknife,” he said, “and it’s sickening.”
Dohey said it would be one thing if it happened once in a while, but it’s not uncommon when dealing with Lands or the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) in Yellowknife.
The GNWT should help communities move forward, he said.
“There’s a couple of departments that, for whatever reason, it seems like every time we go up against them it’s the exact opposite. It gets old. And I’m really, really tired of it.”
Dohey noted he has been on council for eight years and there are days when he feels the town is going backwards in dealing with the GNWT departments, noting, for example, that the town’s community plan has yet to be approved after being submitted to MACA last year.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “These guys got to wake up.”
As for obtaining a lease for the land on which to build the lift station, Dohey said he will believe it when he sees it.