Friday, August 11, 2000
Success story in Whitehorse
Yellowknife city council should take a look at what Whitehorse is doing in the area of waste management.
The City of Whitehorse has been successful in contracting out its waste management services for a decade.
By dividing its garbage operations into five different contracts, including curbside collection and the operation of the landfill site itself, they have managed to do the job more cheaply.
The City of Yellowknife has budgeted almost $1.1 million for waste collection, processing and recycling expenses, while the City of Whitehorse spends $945,000 in contracting out similar services.
Whitehorse is paying $240,000 for its landfill contract per year, $140,000 for the transfer station, $140,000 for its gatehouse operations, $75,000 for recycling and $350,000 for curbside collection.
In its 2000 Budget, the City of Yellowknife has figured in waste collection costs at $512,000 per year, waste processing at $435,000 per year, and recycling at $137,000 per year.
Privatizing these services seems to be paying off for Whitehorse. With 22,800 people, costs work out to $41.44 per person on garbage services. Here in Yellowknife, where our population is about 17,700 people, we're spending about $62 per resident on the same services.
There were some growing pains in Whitehorse but they found by having separate contractors on the gatehouse and landfill site, they ensured quality control was part of the picture.
While there may be good reasons Yellowknife can't match Whitehorse's lower costs, it's a success story council should consider and ask some questions.
A little dab...
In between the steel, glass and concrete towers, sandwiched between the stucco- and aluminum-sided buildings of downtown Yellowknife, the building at 5104 Franklin Avenue stands out like a beacon.
And all it took was a "little" work on the facade -- the addition of some fine stonework.
It's a lot like the Yk Inn parking lot on the corner of Franklin and 51st. There, what was once an empty dirt pit is now paved and bordered by rocks and trees. That was all done by its owner last year, without any city aid.
What these examples show is that with a little effort -- and some money -- the downtown can continue to improve how it looks. It will not only be more attractive and welcoming to city residents, but puts a much nicer face on Yellowknife for visitors and people looking to relocate here.
We also hope that it provides that much more incentive to other businesses to do what they can as well.
Building a dream
If members of the Yellowknife Gymnastics Club have the same drive as its all-volunteer executive, Olympic gold may be in the future.
But for now, let's just concentrate on getting a clubhouse.
When the Weledeh Catholic school gym -- former home of the gymnastics club -- underwent major renovations last fall, the club almost shut down. After a desperate search for a new location, an empty city-owned warehouse offered a temporary fix. But there was still a catch: if the city sold the building the club would be sent packing again.
Less than a year later, the club is still using the warehouse and has $350,000 in the bank, half of what's needed for a permanent facility.
The club's executive has come this far, and it looks like they can use the warehouse for another year because the city was unable to sell it this summer.
But why leave them hanging? The city should hold off selling until the club builds their new facility.
Honouring the past
Such is the mission of the ships and crew involved in the St. Roch II Voyage of Rediscovery.
The 22,000 nautical mile journey began in Vancouver on July 1. For the voyage, the RCMP coastal patrol vessel Nadon has been renamed the St. Roch II. The 20-metre, aluminum-hulled ship is being accompanied by the support vessel Simon Fraser.
The trip honours the original RCMP vessel St. Roch, which served the Arctic for more than 20 years. From June 1940 to October 1942 the St. Roch (while skipped by Captain Henry Larsen) became the first vessel to travel the Northwest Passage from west to east. In 1944 the ship returned to Vancouver, thus becoming the first vessel to travel the Northwest Passage in both directions.
In 1950, the St. Roch became the first ship to circumnavigate North America (via the Panama Canal).
These exploits did not go unnoticed. The St. Roch was brought ashore in 1958 by the City of Vancouver at Kitsilano Point and a dry dock was built around her. In 1962 the ship was declared a national historic site.
However, shrinking funds mean an uncertain future for the St. Roch, which is suffering from dry rot. Part of the purpose of the Voyage of Rediscovery is to raise awareness of the St. Roch's fate and to establish a permanent endowment fund for her care.
But this is not the only purpose of the voyage, as was demonstrated over the weekend in Tuktoyaktuk. RCMP Sgt. Ken Burton, who's captain of the St. Roch II during this voyage, spoke to the many assembled at a feast on Saturday.
"Part of the pleasure we have with this voyage is coming into the communities and taking an opportunity to thank the people in the communities for all the assistance they've rendered for all the years the St. Roch travelled in very, very treacherous waters."
The St. Roch II pulled out of Tuk on Monday. Certainly a safe voyage is wished upon those taking part in this remarkable adventure.
Making science fun is Marie-Eve Farmer's mission.
Farmer, who's worked for Mad Science in Montreal for about 18 months, visited Inuvik last week. She showed an eager group of children how to make a ping pong ball float with a hair dryer, and talked to them about rockets before she launched one right before their eyes.
Kids also got to don special glasses which allowed them to see the world as bugs do.
Farmer said the whole point is to present science in such a way that even those who don't like science will enjoy her presentation. It seems certain she was successful.
Cleaning up their act
Deh Cho Drum
It's good to hear that Air Canada has announced it will be hiring up to 2,000 people to help work out the kinks since it has taken over Canadian Airlines.
For many people who have had to fly south, the merger has been nothing but a headache. Cancelled flights, mix-ups on tickets and an ever- increasing amount of lost baggage were just some of the complaints that have been becoming all too common.
On a personal note, I feel compelled to mention that Val and I didn't encounter any serious difficulties during our holiday travel. Our return flight from Halifax, N.S., however, was overbooked. The check-in attendant had to ask for volunteers to take the next flight out at 6 p.m., five hours later. We decided to give up our seats since we weren't in a hurry. The incentives they offered made it worthwhile, though. We each received a $300 voucher toward future airfare. As well, Air Canada bought us lunch that day, breakfast the next morning and put us up at a hotel in Edmonton (on their tab). We got to fly executive class from Halifax to Toronto to boot -- something we'd never pay for, but we enjoyed the roomy seats. We almost felt guilty.
Nevertheless, we did observe many angry and frustrated customers and Air Canada employees along the way. About half-a-dozen people told us they never had so many problems with the airlines.
"This has never happened to me before," was the exasperated rejoinder we heard most often.
You know it's got to be bad when the check-in attendants begin to describe the circumstances as "terrible" and "a nightmare."
It's hard not to feel sympathy for the front-line employees who take the brunt of the verbal abuse. They have no control over the situation, yet must manage to remain composed as an occasional customer flies off the handle. Hopefully, if all goes as Air Canada president Robert Milton has promised, there won't be any need for such animosity in the near future.
My apologies to Julie Elleze who was supposed to appear as this week's Youth of the Week, but I accidentally mishandled the roll of film which had her picture on it.
Julie was one of many noteworthy volunteers who helped out at Mackenzie Days in Fort Providence. She was working in the very warm canteen at the arena on Saturday afternoon. She had also assisted with the kids' fish pond event and supervised the youth talent show. She down-played her volunteer efforts -- like many teens, she claimed the summer is "boring" and she had nothing better to do. Regardless, she certainly didn't have to lend a hand but chose to do so and deserves recognition for that.
Julie just turned 15 last week and said she was having a birthday party Saturday night to celebrate. Hopefully, someone served her a meal and some snacks just as she selflessly served others on that hot afternoon in Fort Providence.
On a year when Mackenzie Days almost didn't happen at all, the volunteers were the difference between a long weekend of good times and a long weekend of dismay.
A day not at the office
Last week I had the opportunity to go to Marble Island.
The day before the Tuesday trip I considered cancelling. I thought a day of work that included an hour boat ride on the Hudson Bay, touring around a beautiful and historically rich island and watching wildlife was not really work.
But knowing it would be silly to cancel, I got over my reluctance, packed a lunch and my camera and ended up having one of my best days at work ever.
Simon Kowmak was the boat captain. After an hour of watching the constant spray of salt water jet off the sides of the silver boat, Marble Island appeared out of nowhere.
The rocks were smooth and glistening white against the clear blue sky and calm waters, my breath was taken away.
As Simon navigated our boat into a small and pristine lagoon the host of our trip explained that we were floating over the area where two ships captained by explorer James Knight sank.
Sunken ships, sandy beaches and that glistening white rock -- I was really enjoying my new office space.
The trip was more or less a small sneak peek of what will happen when a cruise ship makes three trips to the island this summer. The first of which will be tomorrow (Thursday).
On each trip, 90 people who have a penchant for history and beauty will be shuttled from their liner by Zodiac to the island.
Once on shore they will get down and crawl their initial steps so as not to upset the lady who legend says turned the island from ice to stone.
We were told that if we failed to crawl we would either be plagued with bad hunting or death within the year.
Who would dare to ignore the warnings?
Last week we were the only ones on the island, but tomorrow, in honour of the guests, all the stops will be pulled out in order to tell the history of the island and to show them traditional work.
Drum dancers, story tellers, bannock baking and carvings will all be set up on the island for the people.
They will spend the day, like we did, wandering from island shore to island shore thinking about the people who lived and died there.
And, if they're lucky, on their way home they'll see belugas, a polar bear and seals, like we did.