The City of Yellowknife will spend the lion’s share of its Covid-19 economic relief funding on incentives for local businesses and reduced fees for property enhancements.
On Monday evening, city councillors approved a plan to spend $780,060 in Covid Safe Restart funding supplied through a partnership between the federal and territorial governments.
Of that funding, $230,000 will provide relief for businesses through reduced licence fees and other incentives, $230,000 will cover waived or reduced permitting fees for property enhancements, $65,000 will pay to extend Somba K’e Park’s washroom hours, $80,000 will go toward the city’s communications work, $80,000 will support policy and legislative development work, and $95,000 will hire summer students to “catch up on tasks delayed by Covid and enhance existing services.”
“We see this amount as being useful, spreading the wealth around as much as possible in areas where we are going to have some pressures,” city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett told councillors at a meeting earlier on Monday.
Only Councillor Shauna Morgan opposed the city’s plan, saying she would like council to have more oversight of how the $460,000 earmarked for businesses and property enhancements is spent.
City staff will now develop parameters for that spending to “ensure the funding is used to deliver meaningful and manageable relief programs.”
Other possible uses for the one-time funding that were ruled out included waiving parking meter fees and interest on property tax and utility account arrears, maintaining community services fees at 2020 levels, and offsetting some tax increases in the 2021 budget. The city concluded the benefits of those measures would be short-lived with a “high likelihood of future consequences.”
City staff also considered installing portable toilets in 23 locations at a range of parks, fields and playgrounds, at the request of city councillors. Staff estimated that would cost around $475,000 plus ongoing maintenance costs.
Director of Community Services Grant White noted portable toilets have been vandalized and even set on fire when installed in the past.
“Any time we’ve had porta-potties put in any of our parks for any length of time, they have almost always become tipped over or worse,” White said.
Safe Restart funding amounting to around $19 billion is being provided by the federal government to provinces and territories. In September last year, NWT MP Michael McLeod said the territory would receive $14.5 million of that.