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Council Briefs
Visitors Centre needs boost: president

Randi Beers
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Citing rapidly growing visitor stats, the president of the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre is requesting more support from the city.

Specifically, president Colin Dempsey is asking for $30,000 extra dollars in core funding, an extra $5,000 for events and an agreement to provide in-kind services such as trash collection on the property.

"Why are we asking for more money? Everybody wants more money," said Dempsey.

"We've had twice as many visitors through the door, but no funding increases except inflationary."

According to city statistics, visits to the centre have increased to 23,515 in 2013 from 12,916 in 2009.

"Our centre is the number one attraction in Yellowknife, in a heated head-to-head competition with Cameron Falls," he continued.

Nalini Naidoo, the city's communications and economic development director, pointed out the city has a three-year service contract with the centre that provides a four per cent increase per year.

In a later interview with Yellowknifer, Dempsey said Naidoo's increase was one per cent above inflation.

"Merry Christmas, I guess," he joked.

"What we are looking for isn't to maintain funding for a level of service, we are looking for recognition of the fact there are significantly more visitors here than there were 25 years ago and we are providing significantly more service than we did before."

The October 2013 to October 2014 inflation rate in Canada is 2.36 per cent.

"Getting project funding, it's like pulling teeth these days," he said of administration, adding he asked for a similar agreement from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment earlier this month and had no trouble getting a commitment.

Fastballers want green field

About 30 baseball players showed up to a special city council meeting last week to request a green outfield for Tommy Forrest Ballpark.

Andrew Stewart, the Yellowknife Fastball Association treasurer, said his group has raised almost $26,000 to lay sod in the park and asked the city to contribute the remaining $61,000.

Stewart spoke from 20 years experience playing at Tommy Forrest field when he told council the dirt outfield is not a comfortable place to play.

"It's not a place you'd wanna dive for a ball," he said.

"Visiting ball players are a little bit appalled that we don't have any grass to speak of. The Green Diamond Project did an assessment of all its member facilities and (Tommy Forrest) is ranked the worst (in the city) in terms of playability and safety as well."

The Green Diamond Project Association is a local not-for-profit that works to revitalize community ball diamonds and surrounding green spaces.

Stewart mentioned his association budgets $3,000 annually to maintain the park and recently funded the replacement of its dugout.

Coun. Adrian Bell took note of the association's commitments to Tommy Forrest Ball Park in his response to Stewart's request.

"My impression of your volunteers and membership is you are a tough bunch and you don't want to ask for help that frequently," he said.

"But many of you do a lot of work and run league events year after year so unfortunately your needs go unnoticed until you feel compelled to come forward."

Stewart says his organization aims to lay the sod in August 2015.

Business chamber requests tax freeze

Representatives from the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce don't think local businesses will be able to handle another tax increase.

That was the central message of executive director Deneen Everett and president Jason McEvoy at the special council meeting to hear public input about the budget Dec. 1.

"To see the decline in business, one only has to look at the empty buildings and closed storefronts in the downtown area to realize there is a problem," said Everett.

She continued her presentation by saying the chamber believes a freeze on taxes is attainable and pointed to the amount of money the city spends on employee salaries as a place to start.

According to budget documents, city administration is requesting $20.6 million to pay for 216 full-time employees next year.

"Our membership feels it cannot compete with the city," she said, prompting Coun. Bob Brooks to raise the city's perspective.

"Have you done a similar comparison with the territorial government or federal government and private sector? Because that's who the city competes with," he said.

McEvoy answered the chamber tried to only give statistics specific to the Yellowknife budget.

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