Infrastructure Canada is providing $16 million in top-up funding to community governments, aboriginal groups and the territorial government in the N.W.T. to finance infrastructure projects worth an estimated $50 million throughout the territory.
One of the biggest chunks of cash, $4.2 million, will go toward the expansion and renovation of Hay River's Don Stewart Recreation Centre, which will include a new walking track above the ice rink and extra change rooms.
"We needed it to make it happen," said Brad Mapes, the mayor of Hay River, of the funding announced Wednesday morning.
In October, Hay River residents voted in favour of allowing the town to increase its borrowing limit so that it can borrow around $15 million for the project.
Though today's funding announcement cited an estimated total price tag of $24.5 million, Mapes says the town expects to put out a call for bids on the project by Friday or early next week, and that the final cost will only become clearer once those bids are evaluated by the town.
The projected is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, just in time for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games, co-hosted by Hay River and Fort Smith.
"We want to make sure that when people come in, they see what our community is like," said Mapes.
New arena for K'atl'odeeche First Nation
The federal government has also earmarked $125,000 for a new arena on the K'atl'odeeche First Nation reserve near Hay River, the total cost of which is estimated at $1.5 million.
"It makes a big difference because it gives us a little more money and it helps us preserve our cash to do other things in the community" such as improve the quality of roads and provide programming to elders, says Peter Groenen, the CEO of the K'atl'odeeche First Nation.
Groenen said the arena will have a natural ice surface that, in the summer months, could be home to soccer and other community events.
The arena could also be used as an additional venue for the 2018 Arctic Winter Games, he added.
Utilidor upgrades for Inuvik, fitness centre for Fort Simpson
The federal money comes from the $1 billion Small Communities Fund, money set aside for infrastructure projects in communities of less than 100,000 residents. The percentage of the total project costs covered by the federal government varies from project to project:
Other projects that received funding Wednesday include:
- upgrading Inuvik's utilidor (total estimated cost: $5.7 million.)
- wastewater systems upgrade in Behchoko ($1,545,334)
- Franklin Street sewer replacement in Norman Wells ($1,445,000)
- community road chipseal in Norman Wells ($1,445,000)
- solid waste site upgrade in Tuktoyaktuk ($1,125,000)
- a retrofit of the pool and youth centre in Fort Resolution ($650,000)
- a fitness centre in Fort Simpson ($597,685)
- a cement floor for the arena in Norman Wells ($600,000)
- community road rehabilitation in Fort Providence ($528,000)
Announcement of transportation funding expected 'very soon'
The territorial government says it has applied for federal funding for a number of transportation projects throughout the territory, including:
- an all-weather road heading south of Norman Wells to a source of gravel expected to be used during construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Tulita
- the widening of portions of the Dempster Highway
- the chipsealing of the road leading from Inuvik's airport to the town proper
- the replacement of bridges between Hay River and Fort Resolution, in anticipation of heavy truckloads travelling from Fort Resolution to a planned wood pellet production facility in Enterprise
Michael McLeod, the MP for the Northwest Territories, said Wednesday that the money for those projects has been approved and that an official announcement is expected "very soon."
He added that N.W.T. MLAs will have to debate allocating money for those projects during the late May, early June session of the legislative assembly.