City ponders letting Northlands defer loan payments

City council will consider letting Northlands take until March 2018 to make payments on the nearly $48 million it owes the city.

The non-profit will ask the city to defer payments until the spring of 2018

Northland's Expo Centre will be run by the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) as of January 1, 2018. (edmontonexpocentre.com)

City council will consider letting Northlands wait until March 2018 to make the next payments on the $48-million loan it owes the city.

Northlands borrowed the money to make major renovations to its Expo Centre in 2009.

It was supposed to make payments of about $2 million twice a year, on March 15 and Sept. 15.

But on Sept.14, 2016, the city agreed to defer the loan payment due the next day for an additional 90 days.

Three months later, Northlands still couldn't come up with the money. The city gave the non-profit another 90 days to pay.

Now council will look at deferring up to four loan payments from Northlands until March 2018.

Coming back again for more time

Coun. Mike Nickel said the continued delays and requests for extensions are frustrating.

"They're coming back again and saying, 'We have to adjust it again,' " he said. "Can we get just the straight story so we can move on? How many more times are you going to come back?"

It's a frustration shared by Coun. Dave Loken.

"If they can't do that, that should say to us we need to make some serious changes there," he said.

One of those changes could be with the way Northlands is run, he said.

"I've been questioning these kinds of things all along," he said. "I think the timing is right to be looking at a complete change of the way we do things there."

The outstanding loan is supposed to be repaid to the city by March 15, 2034.

Interest is accumulating at an annual rate of slightly more than five per cent.

Nickel said he wants to see all that money paid back, but not at the cost of losing Northlands.

"There's no one in the city that wants to see that whole place paved over," he said.

Coun. Loken isn't optimistic the city will ever see its investment returned.

"I think we're going to end up eating the cost of the Expo Centre anyway, one way or the other. Unless we make some changes there."

City council will debate Northlands request on Jan. 24.




Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.