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City of Yellowknife looking to forgive over a half a million dollars in fees

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2018-05-29 Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi
the outside of a building: The City of Yellowknife is looking to forgive more than half a million dollars in uncollected fees racked up between 1998 and 2014. © Chantal Dubuc/CBC The City of Yellowknife is looking to forgive more than half a million dollars in uncollected fees racked up between 1998 and 2014.

The City of Yellowknife is looking to forgive more than half a million dollars in uncollected fees.

Northwest Territories legislation requires council to forgive any debt it can not collect, according to administration. But administration only recently realized it hadn't done so in over a decade.

The fees were racked up between 1998 and 2014.

The money is mostly the result of service charges and ambulance fees. In fact, more than $383,000 comes from ambulances.

At a municipal services committee meeting on Monday, Coun. Julian Morse asked whether the territorial government could help recover some of this lost money.

"There's communities in this territory who are completely, 100 per cent subsidized in their ambulance services by the [Government of the Northwest Territories]," he said.

a man standing in front of a television: Coun. Julian Morse questioned whether the N.W.T. government could help recover some of the uncollected fees. © Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC Coun. Julian Morse questioned whether the N.W.T. government could help recover some of the uncollected fees.

"It's ridiculous that the taxpayers of Yellowknife have to foot the [N.W.T. government's] bill in a sense," said Morse. "I really feel that any debt related to ambulances should be charged to the [N.W.T. government] directly."

The city's senior administrative officer, Sheila Bassi-Kellett, said administration will be having discussions with the territorial government about the issue in the future.

Coun. Niels Konge also raised concerns around how outstanding debts for commercial business owners are handled. According to administration, businesses listed with unpaid debts had either relocated or gone bankrupt.

Konge asked whether there was a process in place to keep someone with this debt from being issued another business licence in the city.

The answer was no.

"So you can continue getting businesses licences and continue not paying your bills at the City of Yellowknife?" Konge asked.

a screen shot of a person: Coun. Niels Konge raised concern with how commercial business owners' outstanding debts are handled. © Walter Strong/CBC Coun. Niels Konge raised concern with how commercial business owners' outstanding debts are handled.

Bassi-Kellett said the city is looking at ways to fix this problem.

The city normally tries to reach people with outstanding debt through phone calls and letters. If those don't work, it turns to an external collection agency.

Konge, however, said he spoke with one person on the list who claimed they had never been contacted about any outstanding debt.

Bassi-Kellet said the agency the city was using may have caused some problems.

"I'll be frank and say that, for a period of time, we were using a former collection agency — not the one we're using right now — that encountered some challenges," she said.

"They had capacity challenges, so there may indeed have been issues with that collection agency in actually following up with some of the people that were on the list."

Bassi-Kellett said the city switched to a new collection agency in 2014, and is hoping that will fix the issue.

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