Power play
Mayor, Power Corp. to discuss prospects

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson ( May 12/00) - Fort Simpson Mayor Norm Prevost said he has made it clear to Gordon Stewart, chair of the Power Corp.'s board of directors, that the company's role in the community will be limited to the distributor of power.

"I said ... we'll deal with you on distribution. They came here expecting something different and were shocked by this press release about us appointing Jupiter (Power International Inc. as the supplier of power)," Prevost said of a two-hour meeting with Stewart and other Power Corp. officials on May 3.

"But anyways, I think something positive came of it in the end. We were quite blunt. We told them we want to work with them ... here's your opportunity. Let's get at it and see what you can do."

No specific terms were discussed during the meeting, according to Prevost. But he said Power Corp. officials were told that, as in the case of the power supplier, only the best distribution offer will be accepted.

"So they're going to take a good hard look at their numbers and see what they can do," said Prevost, who expects it will take two to three weeks before the two parties meet again.

Stewart said the Power Corp. is disappointed it wasn't selected as the power generator, but he respects council's decision.

"I think the mayor and council have got the best interests of the community at heart. We have to be respectful of the decisions that they're making," he said.

He suggested that NTPC would "certainly" be willing to remain as the distributor of power.

"We're going to be as supportive as we can in whatever role we've been selected to perform," he said.

The future of the nine regional employees will have to be decided when the details have been finalized, he added.

Asked if he believes it's possible for an outside company to build a power plant and still generate power at a cheaper rate than the Power Corp.,

Stewart said he's not familiar enough with the technical aspects of the issue to know for sure.

"The only information I have to go on is that you have an elected council and a mayor, and they've looked at the numbers and I haven't," he said.

"I'm not sure it's based completely on the economics ... I would have to assume that they've looked at all those factors."

Once the power generation and distribution numbers are finalized, Prevost said a public meeting will be held to update residents on the situation. Those numbers will then be submitted to the Public Utilities Board for review. If approved, the residents of Fort Simpson will have the final say in the matter through a plebiscite.

Prevost said he'd like to see the plebiscite held in conjunction with October's municipal election.

"(The voters) could hang us (council) on the issue at the same time if they vote it down, or vote us in and say yes to the power thing," he said.