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Konge trashes bus service
Councillor says city should cut transit; council favours curbside composting as budget deliberations continue

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 29, 2013

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
A city councillor's suggestion that the city could cut taxes by scrapping its underutilized bus service drew a chorus of protest from council colleagues on Wednesday.

NNSL photo/graphic

City bus services, subsidized 70 per cent by taxpayers, are expected to cost $1.28 million next year. Coun. Niels Konge suggested the city could save money by scrapping the service all together. - NNSL file photo

Coun. Niels Konge made the controversial pitch during this week's preliminary budget discussions.

Administration has proposed a total of seven options for expanding city bus services, including a route that would go to Niven Lake.

Konge argued that the city's bus service, which will cost $1.28 million next year at current service levels, was already over-subsidized by taxpayers.

"I find it very difficult to even support our current bus routes," said Konge.

Mayor Mark Heyck shot down Konge's suggestions to cut the service, insisting the city's cost recovery on its bus service through transit fares, around 30 per cent, is comparable to other Canadian municipalities that are similar in size to Yellowknife.

Yellowknife's buses currently serve 175,000 passengers per year across three routes, with a regular fare costing $2.50.

The cost of expanding the city's bus routes ranges from $62,000 to $559,495 per year, depending on the routes and levels of service.

For an additional $62,000, the city would be able to have bus service to the hospital year-round. Although the city currently runs a bus service to the hospital, it is suspended for the months of July and August during summer service.

Coun. Linda Bussey said she was in favour of the expansion, arguing that, "if we want more people to use our facilities, we need to provide these services."

However, Coun. Rebecca Alty pointed out that there may be cheaper ways to provide those services over the summer months.

"We could hand out 103 taxi vouchers per day for 60 days, and still come under budget," said Alty.

Curbside composting was also discussed at length during the meeting, with most councillors voicing their support for the initiative.

According to Chris Greencorn, director of public works and engineering, the program will cost the city $2.7 million in capital expenditures over the next five years.

Some $750,000 of that, which is being used to expand the composting facilities at the solid waste facility, is already accounted for in the 2013 budget. Another $510,000 is being allocated to this year's budget in order to pay for the compost bins that would be used for curbside collection.

The city plans to alternate the collecting of organic waste and garbage every second week.

As the level of collection will not be increasing, Greencorn said the program would not affect solid waste levies.

If approved, curbside compost collection would begin in a selected neighbourhood next summer, with one neighbourhood being added to the program every year until 2017.

Budget deliberations, which are open to the public, continue on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.

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