Inuvik Town Council is backtracking on a decision it made just three days ago to kill a bylaw that would have allowed it to give two local companies a $500 per load discount at the landfill.
Council voted 4-2 against the dumping fees bylaw during a special meeting Jan. 27, but brought it back at their Jan. 29 meeting after a getting an explanation of the purpose behind the change from Northwind Industries vice president Fred Bailey.
Following over an hour of discussion, councillors voted 5-1, with Coun. Alana Mero against, Coun. Ray Solotki absent and Coun. Kurt Wainman excluding himself due to pecuniary interest, to table and move the bylaw to first and second readings.
A special meeting is scheduled for Feb. 3 to vote on the final reading of the bylaw and whether to grant the one-time fee change for the project or not.
Bailey told council the company was in partnership with E. Gruben’s Transportation Ltd. (EGT) to remove at least 250 full truckloads of steel and had approached the town at the request of ESSO, which through the company Imperial Oil is the proponent (or leaser) of the Tuktoyaktuk Exploration Logistics Base Camp, also known as Tuk Base.
ESSO is a trade name of ExxonMobil, which also owns a 69.6 per cent of Imperial Oil Inc. Bailey explained they hired Golder Associates Ltd which subcontracted out Northwind to do the physical remediation work.
He said the plan was put together to keep costs from spiraling out of control.
“The reason we got the town involved in this whole thing is because ESSO’s process to work is verging on ridiculous – it would take all of your people here to make one loaf of bread in 48 hours. I mean, the process they go through to do anything is amazing,” he said. “They have shortcuts in their processes that can make their projects more affordable. One of them, oddly enough, is if they’re dealing with a municipality they can kind of not follow their own processes, because they’re dealing with another government. That’s kind of how this got started.”
Bailey explained the plan was Northwind would pay $500 a load, and then in lieu of that, cover the capping and moving work at the landfill and would then invoice the town for the work, who would mark it up 10 per cent and re-invoice the consortium of Northwind and EGT, which would pass the bill back to Golder Associates Ltd.
“Nobody is going to incur any expenses or liabilities — you give it the direction of where it goes and how you want it, that’s what we do at the dump,” he said. “We don’t actually invoice our client for that work, we invoice the Town of Inuvik for that work. The town marks it up and then sends it back to the client, so then ESSO looks like it’s getting services done for it by the Town of Inuvik. That’s all they’re asking for. It’s their idea, in order to facilitate actually having the work done.
“If it doesn’t go that way, the work just won’t get done. They’ll just say ‘Well, we’ll just leave it all up here and it can sit for another 30 years.’ They’re just trying to facilitate how to get as much work as possible out of the budget that’s been given to them. If we go to ESSO and say we don’t have enough money to do this, they’ll just say don’t do it.”
He noted many of the people who attended the meeting were relying on the work going forward as planned for their livelihoods.
Bailey added the two companies were working on a strict timeline set by Imperial Oil and Golder Associates Ltd and have been told the raw steel must be out of the site by the end of the winter or else it would stay there. Work was also reliant on being able to drive on ice to the site, which would only be possible until the end of March.
Public Works director Rick Campbell explained the one stipulation town administration made was that no hazardous material would be buried in the landfill and the updated bylaw codified that. He added the value of the work being done by the companies at the landfill would cover the shortfall in revenue from the dumping fees.
Bailey noted all hazardous material from the site would be trucked out of the Northwest Territories as there is no capacity for it. He added if he wasn’t able to use the town’s landfill for the steel, the only other option would be to stockpile it until summer and ship it out on a barge.
“The only person losing at that point is going to be the town,” he said. “The project has a budget, it’s got a cap on it and we have to stay within that budget and that’s where this comes from.”
‘Deals’ have happened in the past
Campbell explained to council that the town has given reduced rates on tipping rates (loads) for projects in the past.
“There hasn’t been a deal made in a long, long time,” he said. “The last time there was a deal cut for solid waste tipping fees was when the old CFS building was taken down. There was a deal to have a set amount of revenue from the tipping fees for that.
“The thought process behind it at that time was to try and not have overloaded trucks going through town,” he said. “So we cut a deal.”
As an example of why the town’s administration had made these decisions in the past, Campbell cited the example of the old Mackenzie Hotel demolition.
“Mackenzie Hotel was an interesting project, because they tried to strike a deal and we couldn’t come to one, so the company that owned it tore the building down and just hauled it to a yard and buried it,” he said.
Campbell said historically he would formulate how many loads of debris would come out of a given project to determine what sort of rate to offer when the subject came up.
He added historically the town had typically restricted such such exceptions to demolitions within municipal borders.
“We haven’t had to make a deal with material coming from out of town,” he said. “Most of it is stuff that we’ve made the deal with has been demolitions in town. It’s been probably 12 years since we’ve made a deal.”
Coun. Gary McBride asked if these were administrative decisions or if they have been brought to council previously. Campbell explained that after the last project it was decided council should make the final call.
“Back when the decision was made to cut a deal for the CFS project, you’re right, it was an operational decision. It didn’t come to council,” he said. “After that project went through it was decided at that time that any deals that would be made would be brought to council and that’s why it’s before you guys.”
‘Steel was a surprise’
Bailey also told council the tight deadline was in part because the steel was only discovered once the remediation work began.
“The steel was a bit of a surprise for them,” he said. “They didn’t realize there was anywhere near the amount of steel that there was when we started pulling it out of the ground. We have an opportunity to get it out but we have actually been told if it doesn’t get out this winter it doesn’t go out.”
Bailey added the current scope of the whole project was to be completed by Sept. 30, 2021, but depending on what they find the remediation could extend much further. He noted poor record keeping and the long periods of time the sites were out of use meant it was often anyone’s guess what was buried in remediation.
“With these projects sometimes you have to go back two or three times,” said Bailey. “The entire scope of work is never fully defined on these things before you start. Nobody has a clue. That stuff’s been up there since the late ’50s, early ’60s and it’s been just constantly getting buried. As you know they didn’t have the same rules of stewardship as they have nowadays regarding product and sites, so you just dig until you’re coming out with clean soil and no contaminants.
“Nobody from 1965 that buried that crap is still around anymore to tell them and they never kept records.”
Council will make a final decision on the discounted load rate at a special meeting Feb. 3.