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Grise Fiord government building still falling apart

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 20, 2007

GRISE FIORD - Another season has nearly passed with no improvements to Grise Fiord's decrepit government office building.

"It's the same old dirty place inside, in need of repairs on the walls, ceiling, floors and windows," said Jimmie Qaapik, an economic development officer who has worked in the building since 1989.

Qaapik and the town's municipal liaison officer share a four-metre by five-metre office with disintegrating plywood floors and no dividing walls.

The fuel lines freeze on a regular basis and sewage tanks, located beneath the adjacent income support office, sometimes overflow, making it "awful smelly" for everyone, Qaapik said.

In May, the building failed a Workers Compensation Board inspection, and the Department of Community and Government Services (CGS) received an order "to fix up certain items," according to Timon Toonoo, the department's regional director for the Qikitalik Region.

"We had tried to comply with workers' reports but we don't have any money," he said, adding that they hope to have some supplies sent up for the most urgent issues at the end of August.

"We know it's not a very good place to work," Toonoo acknowledged.

Although high on the community's wish list during consultations for CGS's $130-million, five-year capital plan, the building missed out on those funds earlier this year.

"There's a lot of need out there, and unfortunately, for this round, some of Grise Fiord's needs didn't make it in there," said CGS assistant deputy minister Shawn Maley. "The (overall) need came back at about $600 million after community consultations...priority one was basic infrastructure - water and sewage - and then slowly moved into actual buildings."

He said his department will go to bat for the building once again, for the yet-to-be-negotiated federal Building Canada Fund, which will allocate $33 billion between 2007 and 2014 to provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure across the country.

Qaapik said he is not holding his breath.

"They say all kinds of good things when they come here and hopes get up, but once they return to their comfortable desk and chairs, it seems like they forget this region and put it on the backburner," he said. "It seems like it's been worse since Nunavut (has become its own territory). When we were the NWT they were actually doing something with this building. They were doing repairs and keeping it up."