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Finishing touches are the hardest part

A community searches for the money to complete an arena

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Coppermine (Jan 07/02) - Pouring concrete has never been more difficult.

The hamlet of Qurluqtuq is still around $450,000 away from pouring concrete and finishing off the floor of a $5-million arena complex.

"Our priority is to get the arena and curling rink finished," said Mayor Stanley Anablak, 43.

Construction began in 1998. The hamlet also hopes to install thermo-syphon pipes to keep the underlying permafrost frozen and finish off the flooring by this summer.

That will cost around $1.27 million.

John Holland, the hamlet's senior administrative officer, said he expects $165,000 from the territorial Department of Education. The money will be used to train staff.

Diavik Diamond Mines is also helping out with training.

Holland said the hamlet requested $700,000 from the Department of Community Government and Transportation but received only $100,000.

"The money we got is not enough," said Holland, who added that he hopes the territorial and federal governments will kick in more money. "We have the materials but no money to pour."

Deputy mayor Peter Taptuna said having a short window for construction makes things difficult. He said the Nunavut government should be paying more attention to the needs of the community's 1,350 residents.

"They haven't paid enough attention in the past," said Taptuna. "I think it's time for the government to throw away the diapers and get down to the nitty-gritty."

Taptuna also wants the federal and territorial government to look harder at building a minimum-security prison in Qurluqtuq.

"Government programs aren't working -- we need to run our own facility and our own programs," said Taptuna. "There is too much crime around."

Taptuna said the hamlet council tabled the proposal a few years ago.

Competing interests

Finishing the new arena is popular project, but it doesn't top everyone's priority list. Newly acclaimed Qurluqtuq councillor Mona Aviak would rather spend what money the community can find on their young people.

"We have a lot of young people committing suicide and not a lot of things for youths to do in town," said Aviak, 40.

Aviak lost three brothers to suicide, and wants other to realize that life is worth living.

"They have to get an education. Many who don't get high school can't go anywhere," she said.

An employee of the Qurluqtuq housing corporation, she supports any initiative to create a youth centre.

The hamlet council once planned to turn an old elder's centre into a youth centre but the pipes kept freezing. Now it's preparing to turn a vacant staff house -- with three rooms and a large living room -- into a small youth hang-out.

"It's small but the youth can hang out there," said deputy mayor Peter Taptuna.