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McNeill's plan

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Hay River (Jun 18/01) -- A meagre crowd of 24 people joined the mayor and council last Tuesday, to review the Hay River's strategic plan initiative.

The discussion paper on council's direction on short, medium and long-term goals was part of Mayor Duncan McNeill's election platform, which he promised to deliver within 100 days.

It wasn't released until the 200th day and McNeill said "I really had no idea of the workload that was involved."

"This is something the community expressed as a desire -- to a be a part of the process, so we've made that possible," McNeill said. "It's a very logical process; to involve the public in the planning."

With five of the seven councillors and a mayor all new to the game, McNeill said there was a steep learning curve on budgets and then found themselves without a town manager.

The 51-page document explains activities of all departments and their objectives and where the money comes from and how it's spent.

McNeill called the paper a "living document," for all residents to read and change as they see fit.

Council is "elected to do the work and we will, but if you don't communicate with (voters), obviously you don't know what they want and you're guessing," he said.

He said the detailed document will help residents understand how their tax dollars are spent and allow them to make informed decisions about upgrades for the town.

The main goal of council is to promote the town as a place for miners to live.

"Yellowknife has a shortage of housing right now and we think people can live here cheaper than Yellowknife, without having an effect on their lives at all," he said.

Hay River resident and Health Board CEO, Wes Drodge said the town should focus on the future ratepayers to build a strong foundation for the impending economic boom in the North.

"The goals and objectives of education are key to the growth and development of our community," Drodge said, adding that library and schools need council's continued support.

He called the plan a "tremendous initiative," and suggested that council come back annually to provide an update on how the plan is progressing.

Following the meeting, resident Dianne Johns said the library needs the support of the municipality, if it is to maintain the current level service.

"There are some concerns that the library could be in trouble within the next couple of years," she said. "The funding comes from several different sources and we're trying to plan ahead."

The mayor said surveys have indicated one-third of all residents use the library and assured council's support. Johns said the number of users may even be higher.

"There's something like 30,000 hits a year - >meaning people access programs or borrowing books," Johns said.

Residents can pick up a copy of the strategic plan at town hall.

2001 objectives for the Town of Hay River:


Professional services

Bylaw enforcement

Civil emergency

Public works


Environmental health services

Recreation, culture and education

General governance