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Council mulls power choice
Meeting held last week with three businesses seeking town's power distribution rights

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Saturday, February 20, 2016

The three businesses seeking to distribute power in Hay River met with town council behind closed doors to go through the details of their proposals, according to Mayor Brad Mapes.

NNSL photo/graphic

Brad Mapes: Hay River Mayor Brad Mapes says a decision on the power distribution franchise could come in the next few weeks. - NNSL file photo

The meeting with council, Northland Utilities, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and Flash Point Facilitators on Feb. 9 was not open to the public.

In late 2014, former mayor Andrew Cassidy said council decided it would not renew Northland Utilities power distribution rights, called a franchise agreement. The aim was to see if another distributor could be found at a cheaper cost.

Northland, owned by ATCO, has distributed power in the town since 1951. Power is generated by NWT Power Corp., a GNWT Crown corporation.

The town issued a request for proposals, and the three companies bid. Council in September last year decided not to make a decision on which bid to go with until it could get more information.

"Each bidder that bid on it is going to do a presentation to council," said Mapes on Feb. 9. He only spoke generally about the process council is undertaking to examine the bids and not the details of what was presented.

The Hub was told it would not be able to attend the meeting because confidential business information was being discussed.

During the campaign, he pledged to reduce the number of council meetings held behind closed doors and increase transparency at town hall.

He said he's looking forward to still doing that but can't at this stage given the information being discussed.

"When we're discussing parts of the contracts, you can't legally put that out in the public," he said.

The day of the meeting, Mapes suggested council could reach a decision on the issue as soon as this week. However after, he said it would likely take a few more weeks.

"We're reviewing all of the stuff," he said Feb. 12, adding there's a lot of legal work involved. "We're just trying to finalize the direction we're going to go in the next couple weeks."

As of Feb. 12, he said no decision had been made.

Mapes said decision concerning the agreement will be voted on during a regular council meeting open to the public, possibly the meeting scheduled for Feb. 22.

Should council opt to not go with Northland, there is a clause in the contract that allows the town to purchase its infrastructure. However, the price of those assets has not been revealed.

Should the price be higher than what council may consider reasonable, there's a clause allowing arbitration to reach a lower price.

Last year, officials with Northland Utilities spoke to reporters and purchased ads stating the company believes the GNWT is attempting to expropriate its assets through the town's RFP process.

Then-finance minister Michael Miltenberger, who was also responsible for the power corp., said that wasn't the case.

Northland's distribution agreement expires in November.

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