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Council entertains Canada Post purchase

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 14/05) - The city will investigate purchasing the downtown Canada Post building.

Council unanimously approved a motion Monday night from Coun. Kevin O'Reilly, calling on Public Works Canada to consider selling the building to the city because of its heritage value and importance to the community.

The motion also calls for another heritage evaluation to be conducted by the federal government of the 50-year-old building, a report on its maintenance costs and revenues, and for the city's own heritage committee to review its potential as a heritage site. There is also a request for a meeting with Canada Post representatives.

Purchasing the building is only one of several possibilities, O'Reilly said. The important thing is to make sure Yellowknife's post office stays downtown.

"It was the main federal presence in Yellowknife for 50 years," said O'Reilly.

"It's central to the downtown, it provides a very vital function. There's a lot of history in that building."

Public Works announced this fall that the two-storey building is up for sale. So far the only party who has expressed an interest in purchasing the property is the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. It has said it may give the building to an undisclosed aboriginal group as part of a land claims settlement package.

Canada Post's lease for the building's first floor expires March 31, leading some to fear that its days downtown are numbered, despite assurances from the corporation that it plans to stay.

Public Works conducted a heritage review of the building in 1996, as required for all federal buildings that reach 40 years in age. They concluded that the building has no heritage value.

O'Reilly disagrees.

The post office has occupied the building since it opened on April 31, 1956. The second floor used to house the territorial courtroom.

"This is as close as you get to built-heritage in the downtown area," said O'Reilly. "We need some representation of these sites in our inventory of our heritage sites."

Council voted unanimously to support the motion, although one councillor expressed doubts about its heritage value and whether the city ought to buy it.

"I'm certainly going to take some convincing to be a commercial landlord," said Coun. Doug Witty.

The open commons out front hasn't "always been used for the public good," Witty said. "It's been used by various groups over the years."

Loretta Kaminski, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 858, said she supports O'Reilly's motion. The union has been pressuring Canada Post brass to keep the post office downtown.

"The employees as well as the general public want to keep the post office downtown," said Kaminski.