Money slipping away
DND offer of $400,000 is in jeopardy

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Kugaaruk (May 08/00) - It's a bit like the childhood game of monkey in the middle.

On one side, there's the Government of Nunavut. On the other, it's the Department of National Defense. And stuck in the middle, trying to get a hold on the $400,000 that's just out of reach, is the hamlet of Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay).

"We can't win," said Quinn Taggart, the hamlet's senior administrative officer. "We're in a no-win situation."

Frustrated by what he said was six months of inaction on behalf of the GN, Taggart explained the situation that began in the Kitikmeot last November.

Realizing the hamlet was close to running out of gravel, they began to look around for a new source. A study was conducted and two possible new spots, both located outside of the community, were identified. Taggart said they wanted to get the most value for their money, so they chose the site closest to the abandoned DEW Line site. Located 20 kilometres away from Kugaaruk, the chosen source meant that a stretch of road and a bridge be built, a project that would cost $1.2 million.

Taggart approached DND with the idea of a joint project.

Scheduled for clean-up in 2002, the site is one of 15 that Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and DND committed themselves to restoring by 2008.

Rob Martel, DND's DEW Line site manager, said they did a cost-benefits analysis on the offer and learned that if the hamlet built the road, it would make the DEW Line clean-up easier and more environmentally friendly, while opening up access to the gravel. The military could realize up to $400,000 in savings.

The military eventually offered to contribute nearly half a million dollars if the hamlet could complete the road by the end of 2000. The date is firm because in order for the clean-up to begin in 2002, the contract needs to be awarded in 2001 to allow all necessary project details to be included in the tender.

Martel said he hasn't heard anything about the offer from either the GN or the hamlet.

"The drop-dead date we told them is that we need the road finished by the end of this summer," said Martel.

"We've had no communication from the hamlet or the territorial government. From our perspective, the ball is in their court," he added.

Mike Ferris, the deputy minister of the department of community government and transportation, said DND hadn't heard anything from the ministry because they were waiting to hear from DND.

"So far, DND hasn't put it in writing or given a commitment for the $400,000. We're trying to get a written commitment that those dollars are there," said Ferris.

He said they had been given verbal confirmation, but wanted a memorandum of understanding to confirm the deal.

Ferris, who said Jack Anawak, the minister of the department, still planned to take the issue to cabinet when he received the offer in writing, said it was questionable if the road could even be built in one summer.

Taggart said there was no doubt that the project could be done by the fall as long as they received the go ahead and could order the materials to arrive on the sealift.

"We know we can do this, it's just a matter of getting the materials in. It's back to the age-old problem of the barge," said Taggart.

"We're not going to fly the bridge in. I don't know whether we can make the barge or not."

Taggart said he was further frustrated by the fact that if the project didn't proceed, the hamlet would be short on gravel and other projects slated for completion this year would also fall by the wayside.

He added that he planned to bring the matter up with Anawak this week while attending a conference in Iqaluit.