Opposition to Iqaluit’s Lower Base utilidor grows

Town looking at new financial options.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT— Not one Lower Base resident has signed up to get their home hooked into the utilidor pipe being installed in Iqaluit’s lower base area.

Hooking up to the new Lower Base utilidor line carries a hefty $17,000-$20,000 price tag, which has quickly inspired residents to form a resistance group and boycott the hook-up.

“Where the town thinks the average homeowner is going to be able to come up with that kind of money I don’t know,” said John Thomas, a lower base resident.

Thomas is just one many Lower Base residents who recall that the GNWT’s old Municipal Affairs department previously subsidized utilidoor hook ups. Lower Base residents want the same kind of treatment, Thomas says.

In the past, residents were not expected to pay the entire cost of hooking up to piped water service, Thomas said. He wants the Town to pay the cost of bringing the pipe as far as homeowners’ property lines.

“The indication is we pay for that. Anywhere else, that’s not kosher,” said Thomas.

He said residents of Lower Base plan to write to the Town and to Nunavut’s Department of Community Government, Housing, and Transportation to get financial help, but he says he and his neighbors ought to go a step farther and negotiate as a block with local contractors.

“Whoever gives us the best price gets all the work,” Thomas said.

He said holding out for subsidies and a good price carries little risk, because contrary to what the Town had been telling residents in June, it will be no cheaper to hook up now while the pipe is being laid than to hook up later.

“John Jacobsen from Tower Arctic told me that no one can hook up until the pipe has been finished and pressure tested,” said Thomas.

He said that means the pipe will have to be finished, covered over and tested and that will probably mean no one will get to hook up until next year.

Thomas said he’s frustrated with the Town because he recently had to get a home improvement loan to improve his home’s water tank to comply with a new municipal bylaw.

Thomas said the Town should have warned him that he would soon have to hook up to the utilidor. Notice from the town was inadequate, he said.

“When did they first know they were going to do this? It obviously wasn’t in June when they sent us the letters saying ‘hook up in three years or else.'”

Thomas said the people in his neighbourhood only want what is fair and to be treated the way other Iqaluit ratepayers were treated in the past.

Without a subsidy, the cost of hooking up will be different for homeowners on different sides of the street, because the pipe was not laid in the middle of the road allowance, but to one side, Thomas said.

But the Town already has brought the pipe to Lower Base residents’ property lines, said Iqaluit Town Engineer Denis Bedard. A lawyer retained by the municipality says that as long as the pipe has been laid within the town’s road allowance, the pipe is “abutting” residents’ properties.

Nevertheless, because of the boycott, the town’s development, committee has ordered Bedard to come up with “financing options” for the project.

“Now those options could include anything from the homeowners pay the whole shot— that could be one option — to the Town pays for it, but the problem with that is that it means all of the ratepayers in Iqaluit end up paying for the project in Lower Base,” Bedard said .

But other options are also available, he said. One option suggested by Coun. Matthew Spence would be to have Lower Base residents pay for the upgrade over time through their lot leases.

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