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Treatment centre gets new building

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River (Apr 24/06) - The territorial government has decided to construct a new building in Hay River to house a treatment centre for troubled youth.

The Territorial Treatment Centre, currently operating in Yellowknife, was to move into the former Dene K'onia young offenders facility, closed last year by the Department of Justice as a cost-cutting measure. The original idea was to spend $3 million to renovate the building.

However, Health and Social Services Minister Michael Miltenberger says he has been advised by the Department of Public Works that it would cost about the same to demolish Dene K'onia and construct a new building.

Miltenberger says he asked three times for Public Works to check its figures and has been assured a new building can be erected at the budgeted price.

"I want to make absolutely sure there will be no cost overruns," he says, noting the political interest in the project. "I'm not prepared to proceed if there would be cost overruns."

He says renovating would have resulted in an old building with a life span of 10-15 years, while a new building will last 30-40 years.

Great Slave MLA Bill Braden calls Miltenberger's latest decision a "real disappointment."

Braden says the decision may have broken the rules under the Financial Administration Act because the project has drastically changed from what was discussed in the budget process.

"We voted for renovations and now it's turned into demolition and construction," he says.

Braden, whose district includes the Territorial Treatment Centre, also questions Miltenberger's statement that Dene K'onia can be demolished and a new building constructed for $3 million. "I don't share that confidence."

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen says a new building will be good for the children needing the service of the treatment centre and the construction jobs will be good for the town's economy.

Groenewegen says it's the prerogative of Yellowknife MLAs if they want to continue to argue against the move to Hay River.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it's an issue again," she says.

Laura Johns, an administrative assistant at the treatment centre, says she is resigned to the fact the government has decided the centre will move to Hay River.

"We're pretty much up against the wall," says Johns, one of the organizers of the opposition to the transfer.

However, she explains the effort was not against Hay River.

"All we were doing was trying to keep a program in Yellowknife," she says, noting there is a definite need for it.

The treatment centre has been in Yellowknife since 1988. Its 17 full-time and six relief workers supervise boys and girls aged eight to 12 with behavioral problems from various areas of the NWT. It houses up to eight children at a time.

The centre will continue to operate in Yellowknife until the new building is ready in Hay River in 2007.

The GNWT recently issued a call for tenders to demolish Dene K'onia. The closing date for the tender call is May 11.