Following what must have been a really rough week of angry emails and phone calls, the Town of Inuvik has released a nine-page FAQ detailing its position on the proposed Gateway sign.
In the FAQ, the town lists off local organizations it contacted as well as Indigenous governments, as well as which ones it received a response from. On top of it, it documents the extent the town went to make the public informed of the decision making process and to get input.
Many of the questions in the FAQ are responses to questions sent by Inuvik Drum last week, which the town appears to have chosen to respond to in a single document.
I think it’s safe to say the town was caught quite off-guard by the negative reaction first spurred on by a July 4 story written by a Yellowknife-based CBC reporter interviewing a Vancouver-based, Inuvik-born artist, who was upset the town chose a Nova Scotia-based firm.
Our own inquiry into what residents thought of the new sign led to over 50 responses, mostly negative.
The town insists that it reached out to local artists and has had this problem with getting local artists to bring forward ideas for public monuments in the past.
In my discussions with Tony Devlin, he told me how the tender for the project detailed the engineering requirements as the main things the town was looking for and that would explain why no artists submitted proposals. Most artists are not engineers, and local artists who never engage in civil engineering projects can’t possibly be expected to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations of construction, find an affordable engineering company that can competently work with Arctic conditions like permafrost and brainstorm an appropriate design the community would actually like in two weeks.
Since the current process effectively shuts out local talent, he instead suggested the town separate tenders for future projects so that artists actually can get involved.
Clearly the town read the story in producing their FAQ. At the end of the second page: “DID ANY LOCAL FIRM, BUSINESS, OR ARTIST APPROACH THE TOWN WITH ALTERNATIVE PROPOSALS, RECOMMENDATIONS, REQUESTS OR SUGGESTIONS TO SPLIT THE TENDER OR TO OFFER TO PARTNER WITH ANOTHER FIRM?”
Fair enough. Perhaps artists just looked at the tender, decided it was out of their scope and got on with other projects. At this point, it really doesn’t matter. The town has the suggestion to split the tender now, so at least we can hope this sort of SNAFU won’t occur again with other major projects.
The town’s own points are quite valid — it went to great lengths to communicate with residents what the options were, which direction the town was going and was continually updating and critiquing the sign. Inuvik Drum covered the open house in November of 2019 and routinely reported on updates to council both online and in our News Briefs section. In fact, aside from a brief mention the old sign was going to be replaced by CBC Feb. 16, we were the only news source covering the development of the new sign up until July 4.
But while the town has checked off all the boxes, the approach of “We did our jobs, come out next time” doesn’t really come off as receptive. The town is creating its own problem by being so defensive.