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Whitehorse manhole covers on Yk streets
Mismatched covers date back more than 12 years

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A glance downwards might warrant a double-take in this city. The stamp of the City of Whitehorse is on several streets in the capital of the Northwest Territories due to a erroneous shipment more than a decade ago.

NNSL photo/graphic

A City of Whitehorse manhole cover sits on a Yellowknife sidewalk on Franklin Avenue, Monday. There are several of these foreign covers around the city. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

One manhole cover with the City of Whitehorse imprinted in its centre sits on the sidewalk outside the Chateau Nova Hotel on Franklin Avenue, one on Williams Avenue, as well as one in the alley between the NorthwesTel Tower and Adam Dental Clinic.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said there are "several" in town.

Previous mayor Dave Lovell told Yellowknifer more than 12 years ago that an erroneous shipment of manhole covers came to Yellowknife and were used when needed. He had stated the covers would be replaced over time but more than a decade later, the manholes continue to sit snug on Yellowknife streets.

"Once you've got them, what's it going to cost to send them away? So forget it," said Van Tighem.

"Where we are, if you go back in history, if you got stuff that would work, you used it."

The City of Yellowknife acquires its manholes from Norwood Foundry Limited, based out of Nisku, Alta. Stephanie Shoebottom, who works in sales at the company's Nisku head office, said there are sporadic occasions when certain towns or cities will use excess stock to save cost – even if it means having a different logo on it.

"It could have been the contractor had extra left over and instead of returning product, generally contractors or whoever wins the bid is who pays for the freight,” said Shoebottom.

“It is more economical to say, 'Is it OK if I put this in your town?'"

"Say Yellowknife changed their (specification), and I can't sell them to you anymore, then I can sell them to a discounted price to someone else who doesn't really care what it says."

Shoebottom finds herself looking down on the ground constantly for either her company's logo, its customers' logos or her company's competition.

"We're constantly on the look out to see who's using what product where, but a lot of people when they walk do not look down," she said.

Van Tighem said he can vouch for the fact that not many Yellowknifers are looking down too often or taking note of what's on the sidewalk. In the 12 years he has sat as mayor, he has received two questions about the City of Whitehorse manhole covers.

"It's like how many people notice the fish on the drains. The storm sewer drains have a little copper fish on them that say don't pollute."

Defny Torindo works as a receptionist at Chateau Nova Hotel, outside of which sits one of the misnamed manhole covers. She said she walks right over it every morning yet never looked down long enough to see the name of the other capital city.

"I have never noticed it before … It's weird."

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