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Neighbourhood groups get actionCity will meet informally with community groups to identify concerns
Northern News Services
Published Friday, January 11, 2013
Mayor Mark Heyck said recently he wants to see improvements in how problems are addressed as areas of the city diversify.
"Going forward, we will want to look at different models of how to engage the community around particular issues," he said. "City staff will meet with residents at the neighbourhood level and discuss the issues that residents have concerns about and try to move forward by addressing some of those issues. We have started in Kam Lake and replicated that in Niven Lake, and I expect Old Town is the next place we try that."
Economic development and communications director Nalini Naidoo said while it has been city staff's responsibility to stay in touch with residents on issues, there is a newfound effort underway by the city to meet with neighbourhood groups informally. The number of staff, the types of positions, and how regularly they will meet will be more clearly defined after strategic planning by council is done next week.
"It is a lot more easier to talk to our residents when there is not one particular problem or issue and it is a nicer way to engage," she said.
Naidoo said larger municipalities in the south, like Calgary, have more formalized community groups that engage with the city. However, in Yellowknife it is important to retain as relaxed a setting as possible, she said.
Neighbourhood groups have emerged in different ways in the city - including the Back Bay Community Association and the Kam Lake Owners Association, which have allowed neighbours to approach the city as part of a collective body. Kam Lake association president Eric Sputek said there have been positive results since forming his now 30-member group in 2011 and that it is a good idea for other areas of town to copy.
"There have been a lot of doors open to city hall, absolutely" he said. "When we see a need as a group or community that we need to talk to the city about, we can be there in full force."
The recent budget is providing $1.3 million for road reconstruction on Deh Cho Boulevard this summer, while another $1.2 million is planned for paving Utsingi Drive in 2015. Both roads are in the Kam Lake area.
Sputek said he is still engaging with the city on planning a "transportation corridor" along Kam Lake Road which better accommodates all of the users along that stretch. As well, he wants a better prioritization of roads that need repair, he said.
On the other side of the city, residents registered a Latham Island Neighbourhood Association last fall. The group formed over the summer leading up to the October election after residents complained about a lack of city consultation on plans for a float plane dock/small boat launch at the island's base.
Member Penny Johnson said it is important to emulate groups like those in Kam Lake and Back Bay as needs are diversifying in her neighbourhood.
"The dynamics on the island have changed over the last few years," she said. "There wasn't a lot of turnover on the island for many years and only recently we have had younger families."
She said by coming together as a single association, family-oriented issues like building sidewalks, upkeeping parks and maintaining the bridge can be better communicated to the city.
"The city can be a lot more receptive when it is dealing with an organization, versus dealing with one or two individuals," she said.
How the dock and boat launch are constructed as well as how the harbour plan proceeds remain some of the concerns going into the new year, she said.
Johnson said the group is pleased to see Morrison Drive is budgeted for $1 million worth of paving and reconstruction this coming summer and that drainage and storm water retention issues are supposed to be addressed.
Naidoo said Niven has a more fluid transition of residents meeting with the city, although community interests are just as pressing and diverse.
City councillor Cory Vanthuyne, who lives in the area, said one big issue is seeing Phase VI paved this year. Right now, $800,000 has been budgeted for 2014 to pave Driscoll Road, Haener Drive and deWeerdt Drive. This was supposed to have been done last summer but soil conditions and annual freeze-thaw heaving led to piping problems and the city chose to hold back on paving.
"We had intentions of doing the work last fall and we weren't able to do it, but hopefully this spring we can do it and get it fixed," said Vanthuyne, adding it will depend on whether the damage to the lines can be addressed.
Neighbourhood residents have also brought up the need to finally sell three remaining lots of the five-piece Bayview property this spring, and to look at getting a bus route in the area.