Dawson City, Yukon Friday, December 19, 2003

The Robert Service School Choir led the singing at the Museum's Christmas Open House. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Dawson Forced into Deficit by YTG Supervisor
Former Municipal Supervisor Fights Back
Dawson Chamber Unhappy with Highway Reconstruction Plan
Problems in Mayo Black Out Dawson
Are Yukoners Awake Out There?
Raising Money for Charity
It Was a Gala Evening
The Legend of Polar Mountain Brightens December

Welcome to the December 19, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the photographs and articles from the December 16 hard copy edition.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. The only thing you would not get is the colour photo at the beginning of the on-line issues. We can't afford to print in colour.

Since we went online in March 1996 our counter has crashed a number of times. The first counter logged about 25,000 visitors. The second one, which crashed in late March 2003, logged about 51,000. The current counter went online in April 2003 and was sitting at 18,364 on December 28, 2003.

Note to Torfinn D: We don't have your land address. We'd love to send you a tax receipt for your contribution, but we can't do that without it.

Dawson Forced into Deficit by YTG Supervisor

by Dan Davidson

Dawson's council includes Joanne Van Nostrand, Byrun Shandler, Mayor Glen Everitt, Wayne Potoroka and Bill Holmes. At right is town manager Scott Coulson. Photo by Dan Davidson

The immediate impact of Andre Carrel's appointment as municipal advisor to the City of Dawson was made clear on December 2 when council was required, at Carrel's direction, to pass a bylaw causing the town to go into a deficit position for the 2003 budget year.

The actual bylaw requires the town to take out a $1,158,000 line of overdraft protection, which will cover possible bills related to the recreation centre arbitration hearings and allow it to have some cash flow before the next series of block funding grants in April 2004.

What triggers the need for the overdraft is the YTG's decision to withhold $730,000 of the debenture signed with the government over a year ago.

According to councillor Joanne Van Nostrand, if the loan dollars had come forward as guaranteed by the government there would have been no deficit and no need to consider an overdraft. She cited the seven year financial plan which was approved by the previous municipal advisor.

"Had YTG advanced us the money they promised us," she said, "we would not be in a deficit."

Councillor Byrun Shandler expanded on this: "If they'd met their obligations as was planned for, as was okayed by them, that was constantly approved by them, there would be no deficit. Because they're saying ‘We're not giving you the money' this is forcing us into deficit."

Shandler went on to say that the process proposed by Carrel was ridiculous because the spreadsheets worked out exactly the same two years down the road no matter how you did it. It's simply, he said, that doing it this way enables certain people to be able to say that the council has demonstrated poor financial management.

Everitt sidestepped the issue of other peoples' political agendas, but Shandler ploughed right into it: "I can say it. Yes there is. There's a political hidden agenda."

Mayor Glen Everitt noted that this arrangement means that the town has had to delay payment of invoices related to capital projects until January 2004. Some payments that would have been made in December will now occur in the next year.

Carrel also ordered amendments to borrowing bylaws originally passed in 1999 and 2000. In the former case the amended bylaw stipulates that payment of the loan taken out to pay for the television and internet cable network must be paid back out of general revenue rather than out of profits from the sales of the services.

In the latter, the definitions in the bylaw are now amended to specify that it is permitted to use money from the CFA to deal with arbitration and legal costs. This was already happening, on the advice and approval of various auditors, lawyers and accountants, but this makes it specific.

Councillors Wayne Potoroka and Bill Holmes both expressed concerns that retroactively altering these bylaws made it look as if the town were trying to pull something shady.

"I don't like rewriting history," Potoroka said.

"Some of these things could be used against us later," Holmes said.

Mayor Everitt agreed that this was the case, but explained that Carrel had ordered the passage of these changes and that the council really had no choice but to do as ordered by the supervisor under the new mandate Carrel has been given.

"Under the order of the Municipal Act," Everitt said, "we are obligated as a municipality to follow the direction of the supervisor, whether we like it or not, which is why we've got ‘without prejudice' written on these bylaws. We personally don't support them, but we're required to pass them, so that's what we're doing."

And why was there an urgency to pass these bylaws this week?

"We need to do this now, because if we don't they aren't going to transfer the $200,000 to us," Everitt said. That money comes out of the $930,000 that was promised in the original debenture.


Former Municipal Supervisor Fights Back

by Dan Davidson

Ken Hodgins finally had enough on December 10, when Minister of Community Services Glen Hart essentially laid the blame for Dawson's financial problems at his doorstep. The next day he attended the legislature with the full intention of airing his side of the story to the press.

"The accusation made by Hart yesterday (Dec. 10) that I was responsible for Dawson was the final straw," he said in an interview on December 11.

Hodgins had spent the period from January 19, 2001 until October 3, 2003 as the municipal supervisor for the City of Dawson. In that capacity he essentially looked over the shoulders of the elected council, which he felt was doing a solid job of dealing with its problems, offered suggestions and sometimes asked questions about what they were doing.

From time to time he would issue a letter indicating the state of the situation as he saw it. In his last assessment on October 3, 2003, he was quite positive, indicating that there was no crisis.

"I was entirely satisfied that the City was being cooperative and compliant with its plan and believe that the plan has proved sound in guiding the City through a time of challenge and also of significant achievement," he wrote.

Hodgins explained that he issued such assessments periodically during his two years and nine months on the file, and updated them when there were new developments, such as budgets. His only reservation at the time of his last memo was that he could not be sure what the final costs of Dawson's arbitration hearings with the contractor, TSL, were going to be.

"My involvement was to continue, in a monitoring sense, up until 2007 when the (financial) plan concluded."

There would eventually, he said, have been a point where his involvement was no longer required, but there had never been a time when any massive intervention was needed on his part, at least not according to his interpretation of his mandate from the two Ministers of Community Services, Pam Buckway and Glen Hart, under whom he served.

Buckway's letter of instruction was clearly intended to see him giving advice, not ruling the show. There was much debate over this role in the Legislature during the Liberals' last year in office, with Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins constantly demanding that the supervisor be given the full measure of authority allowed to the position under the Municipal Act. Jenkins' awareness of these powers was no doubt informed by the fact that he was twice investigated by former Municipal Supervisor John Cormie, while he was in office as the mayor of Dawson.

Mayor Glen Everitt has said that the current supervisor, Andre Carrel, has the same letter of instruction that Hodgins was given when his powers were increased in the spring of 2003. Since the beginning of December, Carrel has frozen all spending by the Dawson council unless he approves it, and has scrapped the seven year financial plan, creating his own guidelines for a four year plan without any consultation with the council which was elected in October.

"It would have been offensive and presumptuous of me, given my instructions, to have done that," Hodgins said when asked his opinion of these actions. "My mandate was to work collaboratively with the council to arrive at a feasible plan. To the extent that I could, I stood back to let the council construct the plan. I intervened in rare fashion to suggest something, but their work in developing the plan was solid. I felt no compulsion to be more interventionist.

"The council knew full well what they were facing. They knew that I was standing off to the side, keeping an eye on things, but that I had confidence in the work they were developing, and didn't think that I should (intervene more), nor did I feel that I had any direction to be more aggressive."

Not even the new letter of instruction two years later changed that situation.

"It was done to give a public assurance that I had the full authority of section 335 (of the Municipal Act), but I was not verbally, or in the contents of that letter, directed to be more aggressive."

He continued to find the town's seven year plan sound, as did the auditors who examined the town's books, and the accountant who he was directed to have examine the town's books.

"(Their reports) were not," he said, "indicating that I was being misled in any way. They were confirming confidence."

Conflicts within the Department of Community Services surfaced in the spring. While Minister Hart, to whom Hodgins was to report under Section 335, continued to express satisfaction with his work, Hodgins found himself getting a different message from Deputy Minister Marc Tremblay.

"I was instructed, by the deputy minister, to take a harder line," he said, "on more than one occasion. This prompted a discussion about who it was that I was to be taking guidance from in respect of my performance."

This left Hodgins in a quandary.

"I was not confident that he was getting his directions from the minister, and even were he to be getting them from the minister, it would have been improper for him (Tremblay) to be directing me."

Hodgins says that his interpretation of the "subtleties of the appointment" came from the former deputy minister, John Cormie, who counseled him in January 2001.

"He called me to meet with him immediately after the appointment to advise me that, if at any time I felt that he was directing me, that I was would be perfectly in my right to tell him to stop doing it."

Cormie told Hodgins that his role as a municipal supervisor was to be entirely free of any influence from the deputy minister's level, that the legislation made him an independent operator except for a direct relationship with the minister.

Cormie subsequently moved on to head up the Liberal's ill-fated government renewal project. Eventually Marc Tremblay became deputy minister.

"Marc Tremblay struggled to appreciate … the character of the relationship," Hodgins said, adding that he had always understood that he served at the pleasure of the government, who could replace him on the file if they didn't like his work.

"I had never been informed by the minister that he found my work to be unsatisfactory at all. The first I had heard that it wasn't was yesterday in the House."

In the end, he was dismissed, erroneously he says, for something else entirely, and the government neglected to remove him from the supervisor's position for several days after that, apparently having forgotten that he was appointed to the position by name.

He maintains that he was falsely accused of participation in circulation of e-mails during the computer porn probe, and falsely accused of providing information to the Yukon Employees Union. The other charge which has surfaced in rumours (nothing confirmed by the government) has been insubordination.

"I suppose, to the extent that my insistence on maintaining the integrity of the supervisor's role was seen as insubordination, I suppose maybe I was guilty of insisting that I hold to what had been described to me as my obligations. That wasn't well received."

Hodgins doesn't know for sure when the axe began to fall on his tenure, but Mayor Glen Everitt says that Andre Carrel has told him he was first approached about this matter by Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins in July of 2003. Government spokespersons have denied that Jenkins was involved in Carrel's appointment in any way. Minister Hart claimed on December 11 that Carrel's name was actually advanced from within his department.

Hodgins finds that unlikely. No one has been in the department long enough to have known of Carrel when he last worked in the Yukon as CAO of the Association of Yukon Communities.

Hodgins agrees that there would be no financial crisis in Dawson now if the government had honoured its commitment to release the final $930,000 of the $4.46 million debenture. The assumption that this money was available was part of the city's projected 2003 budget, which was checked by the territorial government and approved after it was submitted.

Clearly, territorial officials and government ministers would have realized that withholding nearly a million dollars would precipitate a crisis.


Dawson Chamber Unhappy with Highway Reconstruction Plan

by Dan Davidson

Front Street on a chilly winter afternoon. Photo by Dan Davidson

Members of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce are not, by and large, pleased with the territorial government's plans for reconstruction of the Klondike Highway between Crocus Bluff and the Callison Industrial Subdivision.

It's not that they are totally opposed to that project, but they would rather have seen the money spent on the decaying Front Street, which is a patchwork of repairs and potholes during most of the summer and probably at its best during the winter.

If the roadwork is clearly destined for the stretch southeast of the Ogilvie Bridge, then the membership is concerned that the Trans-Canada Trail be preserved, that the road not run too close to the soccer field/ball park complex, and that there should be improved turn-off access to both the Dome Road and the Callison entrances.

While chamber president Martin Gehrig proposed that the membership should fill out copies of the comment form left behind by the YTG's Highways people, Bill Bowie (Arctic Inland Resources) felt it would do little good.

Bowie said that locals had overwhelmingly advised against the chip sealing of the Top of the World Highway some years ago but that had not stopped the government and the work had been done anyway. The surface had since failed, Bowie added.

Speaking of streets, Jon Magnusson wondered if anyone else was as unhappy with the current winter's snow removal on the streets as he was. Magnusson operates a nighttime security service, and put forward the idea that it would make sense for the plough to make a sweep through the downtown areas at night, when it would not have to swerve out to avoid parked vehicles and only do half a job. Others thought this might be a good suggestion to make to the city council.


Problems in Mayo Black Out Dawson

by Dan Davidson

The Yukon Energy Plant in Dawson City is now the town's back-up power supply. It has been running on and off over the last few weeks while technical adjustments have been made to the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. Photo by Dan Davidson

The failure of a protective device at the Mayo hydro dam resulted in an early morning blackout in Dawson City at 7:40 on Wednesday, December 10.

According to Guy Morgan, Lead Hand for System Operations with Yukon Energy in Whitehorse, the system failure tripped all three circuits in Dawson, the two that serve the town and the one that goes to Hunker Creek. The circuits are designed to shut down when the voltage is too low.

Morgan did not know exactly what had caused the protective device to fail.

The two feeders supplying the town with power transmit through the diesel generation station at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Front Street.

The power quit at 7:40 and was back on in Dawson twelve minutes later. It took an additional fourteen minutes to get power to the third circuit.

The area ran on diesel power until 9:44, when power was restored to Dawson via the Mayo grid.


Are Yukoners Awake Out There?

by Bridget Amos

There is no proven economic justification to build a bridge at Dawson City across the Yukon River, that I can find. If anything it appears to be more detrimental to Dawson and the Yukon, due to lost wages. It will cost approx. $10,000 per Yukoner to put in this bridge and do Yukoners really want this?

I have written to Mr. Fentie and asked for their reasons for building a bridge. Here are the answers I was given and my response to them.

  1. "Full time access between Dawson City and West Dawson... 24 hours per day 365 days per year, at any time chosen by any user."

    Who is it that needs full time access? There are about 75 residents in West Dawson/Sunnydale and maybe half of them would like to see a bridge built, that is 37.5 people. The other people crossing specifically to West Dawson are golfers. The golf course is open from May to September, when they can cross 24 hours a day.

    The miners that shut down for the winter pull their gear in October anyway. The company's that haul oil etc. can't use this route once the border is shut. The border shuts at the end of September and the Top of the World highway is impassable except for skidooers and mushers after October. If a bridge were built people could get across the river for the four weeks of break-up and freeze-up when the river is impassable, but where are they going to go?

  2. "The resulting reduction in delays waiting for the ferry and elimination of periods when there is no access would be of significant benefit to local users and tourists alike."

    Who says? The tourists like the ferry. It is said to be one of the most photographed and filmed attractions in Dawson City. I travel the ferry regularly and it must be on almost every R.V.'rs home video. Tourists are coming this far north for a reason, to see the North. Not to see Vancouver, or every other town and city in Canada. Most of them love the ferry and the fact that it is free. I think it is time that both sides agree on this.

    The other main local users are oil trucks hauling fuel from Alaska. Well, the truckers who choose this route are being paid by the truck load, so they are coming this way because it is already faster for them.

    The other group of local users are the people who want to go golfing. As one city councilor honestly answered when asked about the bridge (he said, approximately), "I'm a golfer, of course I want a bridge". I think that there may be other solutions than building a multi-million dollar bridge for this reason. They could build another golf course on the Dawson side of the river, for a fraction of the money.

    Half of the West Dawson/Sunnydale residents would benefit. Back to the 37.5 people, approx. and, of course, the summer golfers.

  3. "The cost of the George Black Ferry would be eliminated. In recent times, this cost has averaged more than $700,000 per year..."

    $700,000 that goes straight back into the community, year in and year out. Wages, fuel trucks, maintenance. To take the ferry away is taking money away from Dawson.

  4. "The availability of reliable year round access to West Dawson would enable increased land use on the west side of the Yukon River... there is significant difficulty in locating land that can be developed near Dawson City."

    Dawson City and the First Nations have both recently successfully located and developed sub-divisions on the 'Dawson' side of the river. The 'Dredge Pond' subdivision even has 12 lots still for sale.

    Not having a bridge doesn't stop development anyway. There has been one subdivision just developed which has sold. And another subdivision is being developed as I write this.

    How much more development do we need? Dawson's population trend has been pretty consistent for the past 10 years: in 1992 it was 1,874 and in 2002 it was 1,831 with increases and decreases in between.

Those are all the reasons given to me by Mr. Fentie in response to my letter. However, there has recently been another reason put public by Larry Bagnell. Mr. Bagnell, apparently, had to wait 10 hours for the ferry. I and no one I know has ever heard of anyone ever having to wait that long, ever... not even close. Why was it a 10 hour wait, anyway? Road works? Oh, no it couldn't have been, the bridge isn't built yet! Then Mr. Bagnell mentioned the economic opportunity the actual building of a bridge would create. This will surely be short lived by nature and leads to the question: is there a Yukon company with the expertise to build this bridge, or will the contract have to be awarded outside of the Yukon?

A bridge is a lot of money and can never be undone. As of yet, there is not enough research to justify this kind of expenditure and begs of the question, in what better way could this money be spent? Medical equipment in all the communities, four-wheel drive ambulances, up-to-date books in the libraries, etc., etc., etc.?


At least...


Raising Money for Charity

by Dan Davidson

The Pit was buzzing and the bidding was brisk during the fundraising auction. Photo by Dan Davidson

No, Dawson City's mayor is not out raising money to pay the town's bills and hasn't taken on a second job. Glen Everitt often acts as a free bartender at charity fund raising events, contributing his evening's tips to whatever the cause at hand might be.

This charity auction, held at the Westminster Tavern (The Pit) on the evening of December 5, was to raise money to help cover medical expenses for John McConnell, a senior who may have to travel Outside soon for treatments.


It Was a Gala Evening

by Madeleine Gould

Jack Fraser tends the bingo game at the gala. Photo by Madeleine Gould

The Yukon Order of Pioneers held their Annual Banquet on December 6th, This was the 106th , banquet since the forming of the lodge on July 24,1897. The first banquet was held on December 31st 1897.

All the tickets were sold and everyone enjoyed the dinner which was catered by the Downtown Hotel. This is an evening where friends who maybe have not seen each other for some time can catch up on what has been happening in their lives.. By the sound of the chatter there was a lot of catching up to do.

After the dinner ten games of bingo were played with the prizes being turkeys. Of course the bingo was called by our favourite caller Jack Fraser. It wasn't easy for him as the P A system wasn't working .but Lambert went to the back of the hall and called out the numbers as well.

Wayne Rachel also kept busy by handing out the door prizes .He would wait until someone called bingo ,then had someone draw a ticket from his bucket. read the name and handed out the prize. The prizes were all donated.

Most people left after the games but a few stayed and relaxed for a short time.

This is a great event and people always seem to look forward to it.


The Legend of Polar Mountain Brightens December

by Dan Davidson

The whole cast and backstage crew of "Legend" take a bow. Photo by Dan Davidson

This year's fall production by the Robert Service Choir was "The Legend of Polar Mountain", a winter musical by John Jacobson and Roger Emerson. The setting for this winter musical is somewhere in the North, where the darkness of the season is illuminated only by the mysterious Northern Lights.

We come upon this story in a Northern village of Uelene, where the villagers pass the long winter nights by listening to stories. They have gathered this night to hear a tale told to them by the Old Yupik (Alex Whitelaw), who begins with a song, "Once Upon a Wintertime".

It is the tale of Galena (Miriam Moore) and Tagalong (Aili Fraser), two youngsters who get lost on the mountain which is just above the village one cold, dark night during the annual Winter Festival. As the village chief Yaka (Bryan Leary) explains, the festival was his idea "to boost the spirits of the villagers in the bleak winter months."

Somewhere, in the midst of all the excitement, ("Dancing in the Snow") Tagalong gets lost, and Galena feels it is her duty to find him. She does, but not before they get caught in a blizzard ("Sea of Snow") and become well and truly lost ("Lost"). No sooner do they realize this then they run across Sasquatch (Kimmy Graham), a snow creature who tries to scare strangers to protect himself, but who is really more frightened than they are ("Get a Load of Me").

Squash, as he is known, takes the two kids to find Aurora (Rachel Millar), the Snow Queen of Polar Mountain. She teaches them the importance of hope ("You've Gotta Have Hope") and by the light of the Aurora Borealis ("There's a Light"), the kids find their way home, where the whole village reprises the opening song.

The production was a half hour of good music and laughter, with the goofy Sasquatch probably being the stand-out performer of the evening. On both nights the show was opened by small ensembles from the school band (a clarinet trio on the first evening and a brass group the second) performing Christmas carols.

There was lots of back stage help with costumes, dressing and prompting from former choir members now in high school, as well as from school staff and parents.

These productions take a lot of people and energy, but they are well appreciated and fondly remembered.


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