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Gate finally installed

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

After a few rulings by the rental officer and a few Supreme Court hearings, a gate has finally been installed at the Union of Northern Workers' building on 52 Street.

NNSL photo/graphic

Tenant Michele LeTourneau said residents have been assured the current gate is temporary and another one will be installed by the end of the month. - Danielle Sachs/NNSL photo

The padlocked gate was installed last Thursday, after the NWT Supreme Court ruled the union had until Friday to grant access to eight tenants in the building.

Before the gate was installed - which has been described as temporary in a letter to tenants - residents had to walk around the block and cut through an alley to access their apartments. Slippery and dark in the winter, tenants said they feared for their safety while negotiating the alley so they filed complaints with NWT rental officer Hal Logsdon. He said the UNW had to provide access either through a gate in the fence or by allowing access through the front of the building after office hours.

The east-side entrance was blocked off in March 2011 following a fuel spill in a neighbouring parking lot.

Now that a gate has been installed, some tenants are saying they are "cautiously optimistic that the issue will be resolved once and for all.

"You'd think after all this they would have built something that blends in," said tenant Kathryn Carriere. "I have nothing against the contractors, they did what they had to do."

The gate is made of wood, which contrasts with the bright white chain link surrounding the parking lot.

There's a padlock on the inside of the gate, forcing tenants to stick their hand through the slats to unlock it.

"They complied with the order," said a resigned Carriere. "We did get a notice saying we are getting a real gate, for now we're calling it the gate of shame."

Michele LeTourneau, who also lives in the UNW building, has tried the gate a few times. She said the first time it worked fine but the second time she dropped her keys on the other side while trying to unlock it and has just decided to keep going around until the permanent gate is installed.

"The time spent fiddling there isn't any safer," she said. "The real (gate) should be in by the end of the month, it makes me hopeful."

The UNW is still appealing some of the decisions.

Tenant Annemieke Mulders said she and LeTourneau have a court appearance on Friday, where a hearing date may be set for the future.

"I'm confused that they are going ahead with the appeal after they sent a letter saying this is an interim gate," said Mulders.

"I'm a little bit baffled and I'm hoping they're not going to follow through with the appeal."

In a letter sent to all UNW members dated June 11, president Todd Parsons stated he prefers not to comment on the issue while it is before the courts. He said the UNW is proceeding with legal action because of one of the rental officer's rulings which stated that one option was to grant tenants after-hours access through the office section of the building.

That option came with privacy issues, Parsons stated. The union is appealing to prevent any similar decision in the future, he wrote in the letter.

"This legal action does not in any way subtract from our commitment to the safety of the tenants and our own office staff. I am confident the gated access we are providing will put everyone's safety concerns to rest."

The fence around the a portion of the building was erected in March to protect union vehicles.

The UNW could not be reached for further comment before press deadline.

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