Inuvik council to finalize decision on Imperial Oil cleanup that will see steel dumped in town

Inuvik town council is expected to decide Monday evening if it will approve an amendment allowing it to give discounted dump rates to contractors.

This comes after an Inuvik contracting company, EGT Northwind Ltd., requested a 50 per cent discount on dumping fees for out-of-town material the company hopes to transport to the Inuvik landfill from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. 

Imperial Oil, which is owned by Exxon Mobil, has a cleanup project underway in Tuktoyaktuk. Imperial contracted Golder Associates Ltd., who then subcontracted EGT Northwind for the work.

Part of the project includes EGT Northwind bringing loads of steel from Tuktoyaktuk. Each load would normally cost $1,000 to dispose of, but EGT Northwind is asking for the price to be dropped to $500.

In order to approve that request, town council would have to first amend the dumping fees bylaw, which would allow council to approve one-time discounts.

Council votes down change, then reopens debate

Inuvik Coun. Alana Mero said the concession would be shortsighted. She's concerned the town is being rushed to make a decision without enough information. 

"My concern with changing a bylaw in reaction to a request is that we are basically making a change because of a short-term circumstance, rather than a long-term outcome."

It's a lot of potential income for the town and there's not really any drawbacks. - Fred Bailey, Vice-president of Northwind Industries

"What is the impact then on the town's budget ... and what does that mean for taxpayers in the community?" Mero asked.

At a special council meeting last Monday to discuss the bylaw, several members of the public spoke against the change.

When it was put to a vote in second reading, town council decided against the amendment. Coun. Kurt Wainman, who owns Northwind Industries, recused himself in a declared conflict of interest.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC

Could create work for 40 people

Mayor Natasha Kulikowski reopened debate over the amendment at a council meeting Wednesday for more information. Nearly 70 people squeezed into town council chambers, with others left to stand in the hallway.

Fred Bailey, vice-president of Northwind Industries, represented EGT Northwind at the meeting.

He said if the project goes beyond the budget they were given by Imperial, Imperial will tell them to leave the steel in Tuktoyaktuk "and it will sit for another 30 years."

We would be foolish to turn it down. - Jesse Harder, Contractor running Inuvik landfill

Bailey said the other option the company has is to "stock-pile" the steel in one of their yards and send it on a barge somewhere else in the fall.

"The only person losing at that point is the town and potentially us," said Bailey. "The project has a budget, it has a cap on it and we have to stay within that budget."

Bailey said his company has until the end of March to get the steel out of Tuktoyaktuk. The company expects to transport more than 250 loads to the landfill. The project could create work for over 40 employees.

"It's a lot of potential income for the town and there's not really any drawbacks," Bailey said. 

'Community needs the revenue'

Jesse Harder, the contractor who is running the landfill, told council that he's "in favour of going with this, if this is our only option."

"The community needs the revenue at the end of the day. If this is our only option and they can take it elsewhere, we would be foolish to turn it down," said Harder.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC

According to town administrators, there have been exemptions to dumping fees in the past. But it's been nearly 12 years since a deal was last made, and no discount has ever been granted for material coming from out of town.

Resident Peter Clarkson spoke at both meetings on Monday and Wednesday.

He said with Inuvik residents facing a proposed four per cent property tax increase, he was troubled by the proposal to offer discounted rates to a contractor.

"Yes we need development, but also we need consistency," Clarkson said.

In an email to CBC, Imperial Oil spokesperson Jon Harding said the company was not directly involved in all of the contract details.

"Imperial has not been party to the commercial discussions with the Town of Inuvik about disposal rates at the Inuvik landfill," Harding said.

But Mayor Kulikowski said that if this project goes forward, the revenue from it could result in a lower tax increase.

'We want this'

Melinda Gillis was passionate about the need for the project in town, and was met with cheers and clapping on Wednesday. 

"We want this," Gillis said. "I don't think anyone had any argument good enough to be against it."

By the end of Wednesday's meeting, Coun. Gary McBride — who previously voted against the amendment to the bylaw — said that after reviewing new information he was in favour of the change. He said it would give council more flexibility to consider requests as they came forward. 

McBride added that the decision to give EGT Northwind a reduced rate was "not a done deal" but, he added, "everybody's seeming to win with this, so why turn down something where everybody is winning?"

A second reading of the amendment Wednesday was supported by councillors five-to-one, with Coun. Mero voting against the amendment.

Without going into details Kulikowski said a procedural error needs to be corrected before a third and final reading at a special meeting of town council Monday at 7 p.m.