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Village Council Briefs: We're going to sue!

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Feb 11/05) - Council passed a motion on Monday to take the territorial government to court over $39,740.21 in unpaid grants-in-lieu from 2001.

Up until that year the GNWT used to pay the village for improvements on behalf of squatters who built houses on territorial lands, according to senior administrative officer Bernice Swanson.

The federal government assumed control in 2002, but the outstanding amount from 2001 remains unpaid.

"We hold the hammer," Coun. Owen Rowe said in regards to court action. "I'm sick of this."

Taxing accusations

About 25 minutes into Monday's meeting, resident Allan P. Anderson entered the council chambers and forcefully accused the village of overtaxing his aging parents.

Mayor Raymond Michaud told Anderson he wasn't on the agenda as a delegation therefore he couldn't speak. Anderson said he'd be heard whether council liked it or not. Michaud struck his gavel and called for a five-minute adjournment.

Anderson walked towards Michaud and slammed some documents down on his desk. He said his parents have paid more than $300,000 for their land since they moved to Fort Simpson in 1972. "You guys are stealing," he said. "You people are still taxing the shit out of us."

After being escorted towards the door by Coun. Owen Rowe, an irate Anderson left still demanding answers as he walked up the stairs.

Michaud reconvened the meeting and said, "If we start dealing with issues that aren't on the agenda they get carried away."

Go ahead, check our budget

Mayor Raymond Michaud said he has invited officials from Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) to Fort Simpson to scrutinize the village's $831,954 deficit budget line by line.

"Our expenditures are not exaggerated," the mayor said.

In a meeting with bureaucrats in Yellowknife on Jan. 28, Michaud said he again encouraged MACA to amend its formula funding to meet the village's needs.

A move to hamlet status would lower property taxes, but would result in reduced operations and maintenance funding, the mayor told council. Municipal services would consequently be cut back, Michaud warned.

Coun. Owen Rowe contended that MACA can't reduce service standards because insurance policies won't allow for it.

Let's borrow big

Deputy mayor Dennis Nelner argued in favour of a $1 million debenture to match government grants for water and sewage projects.

Mayor Raymond Michaud noted that the public wouldn't necessarily approve of such a huge loan. He cited the rejection of a $60,000 debenture for a proposed alternate island access during his last term as mayor.

Coun. Tom Wilson said something has to be done before existing water and sewage infrastructure, especially under Antoine Drive, starts to fall apart.

A pipeline legacy

The village should be looking at "legacy projects" associated with a Mackenzie Valley pipeline rather than concentrating on getting percentages of short-term contracts, deputy mayor Dennis Nelner said.

As examples of projects with lasting benefits he cited a Liard River bridge, a trades and tech centre, a refinery or airport expansion.

He added that solid business cases must be made and individuals with expertise should be hired to manage the projects instead of village councillors trying to oversee them