Con Mine heat project, SAO go up in smoke

Con Mine heat project, SAO go up in smoke
Former Yellowknife SAO Robert Long speaks at a Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce meeting about the proposed Con Mine heating project in February 2011.Photo: Con Mine Project.

Yellowknife SAO Robert Long and the district heating plan he championed have gone down in flames since a new mayor and city council were sworn in last month.

Both were issues in Yellowknife’s hard-fought municipal election. Long’s dismissal was the new council’s first order of business, and last Monday it endorsed a drastically scaled back heating plan.

The grand scheme aiming to draw thermal energy from the former Con Mine to heat public and private buildings has been “shelved for the foreseeable future,” acting administrator Denis Kefalas said in an email.

Long’s dismissal and the end of the Con Mine plan were vindication for Tim Doyle, who raised both issues in the close and hotly contested race to replace retiring mayor Gord Van Tighem.

“I will not be doing any dances in the street nor should anyone else,” said Doyle, who was criticized for raising a personnel issue in the heat of an election campaign.

Doyle said voters told him they didn’t like the way city hall was being run, and “in the end, as the top administrator at city hall, his job is on the line if there is dissatisfaction with the way things are being done.”

The district energy plan grew out of a committee chaired by Mark Heyck, the favorite and winner of the mayoralty race, but Doyle was not surprised to see it diminished.

Voters rejected the plan when they refused to allow the city to borrow $50 million. The city recruited Corix, a private utility company, to develop the project in hopes of getting $13 million in federal help.

“People were quite clear that they did not support this large scale spending project being backed by taxpayers. The fact voters were ignored contributed to anger before and during the campaign,” Doyle said.

The new plan will focus on 13 municipal buildings, two of them now heated with wood pellets. Kefalas, who is also director of public works and engineering, described it as “a small demonstration project that would use wood and cardboard products readily available at the city’s landfill.”

It might also “allow the city to generate its own power to help service these same buildings. The total amount of the project and the funding request still need to be determined,” he said.

“If the project proceeds it will be completed within the city’s means. The city will not be borrowing any money and will not be using money slated for the city’s assessment management program or other capital projects.”

The city has until March 31 to review and finalize a contribution agreement with Natural Resources Canada. Final engineering will be completed this year and the system could be in operation by the end of 2016.

Heyck said the system could potentially save up to $800,000 a year in power and heating costs.

“Power is such a huge component of the city’s cost drivers,” the mayor said.
“If we can start to address that in some of our facilities with materials from the dump and co-generation, the savings could be huge,” he said.

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