Faro gives employee great deal on public property sale

Faro is selling public property to town employees for bargain-basement prices. A lot and house that once served as the community daycare has an assessed value of $80,000. But the town won't sell it for that.

Faro is selling public property to town employees for bargain-basement prices.

A lot and house that once served as the community daycare has an assessed value of $80,000. But the town won’t sell it for that.

Instead, officials are proposing to subdivide the lot, selling the empty section of land for $20,000 to the RCMP for housing.

The other portion of the lot will be sold for just $10,000, house included, to Kerry Wagantall, a town employee, and his wife Helen, the sister of councillor Diana Rogerson.

Both of these sales are pending a successful subdivision application.

Faro residents like Inge Kvemo are irate over the deal.

“This is one of the best properties in Faro. It’s sitting on a full basement, in beautiful shape,” said Kvemo, who has lived in the town for more than eight years.

“Every second house is for sale here. Then the town turns around and gives a house away to a town employee?

“What the hell do they think they’re doing?”

The land in question is Lot 116 on Dawson Drive, the site of the town’s former community daycare.

The daycare has not been used since 2006, but many community members hope to open it again one day.

In September, the local RCMP approached the town looking for available lots to build housing for its officers.

Rose Price, the town’s chief administrative officer, forwarded information about the lot on Dawson Drive to the police.

The RCMP told the town they were interested in the lot and not the house – it would either have to be removed or the lot could be subdivided.

The police also requested that the land be appraised.

This appraisal was completed by Murray Hampton, a local realtor, and submitted to council on November 3.

Hampton found the building, contents and developed grounds in remarkably good condition.

It would be unfortunate to convert the unit back to a dwelling, he noted.

He went on to say that the best overall market value could be obtained by subdividing the lot.

The vacant portion of the lot could be sold for $30,000 and the portion with the house for $50,000.

The town asked for expressions of interest in the daycare lot and building on November 4 and received two bids.

On Wednesday, December 16 the town posted a second public notice, asking for invitations to make an offer to purchase the house (the lot is not mentioned).

These public notices were posted in the post office and later in the town’s monthly newsletter.

Both the expression of interest and tender were not published in local newspapers or advertised elsewhere.

The tender closed five days later.

Again, two applications were received and the Wagantal’s bid of $10,009.12 for the house and lot was the highest.

The vacant portion of the lot was agreed to be sold to the RCMP for $20,000 without a public tender.

Both sales were contingent on the town successfully subdividing the lot.

The subdivision application is currently in its public notification period, which ends April 16.

But land planning, which processes the application, will not be making its decision based on popular support.

“We don’t have a lot of discretion in the matter,” said George Stetkiewicz, director of land planning.

“The legislation is fairly prescriptive so, if it fits, we have to approve it.”

A decision will likely be reached sometime around mid-May.

After the subdivision, the land will still need to change its zoning from community use to residential.

The bylaw to change the zoning was brought forward to council on January 19.

However, several concerned residents attended a public hearing on the bylaw to complain about the deal.

The bylaw was not read and hasn’t been brought before council since.

On January 9, Kvemo discovered the Wagantalls had been moving things in and out of the daycare before they had legal possession of the house. An inventory of the house contents was not conducted until January 12.

“I could not believe it. I phoned the deputy mayor and asked her, ‘Who gave these people the key? It hasn’t even been subdivided yet?’” he said.

“I was outraged. I phoned the RCMP.”

The constable told him that there was nothing the police could do.

Much of the town showed up at the next council meeting on January 19.

“Everyone was pretty upset,” said Kvemo.

“We told them, ‘You are in a house that doesn’t belong to you. This house belongs to the town of Faro.’”

Rose Price admitted that she had given the house key to the Wagantalls.

The meeting dragged on until midnight.

Shortly after midnight, the meeting went in camera and Price was handed a suspension letter, according to a Supreme Court Action filed by Price on February 23.

“I have not received any details of the reasons for the suspension against me,” she said in the affidavit.

However, the suspension letter suggests a few reasons.

“I submit that council has not received accurate timely information and has violated procedures recently,” wrote Mayor Heather Campbell in the January 19 suspension letter.

“I find myself having lost the atmosphere of trust, and am losing the ability to successfully carry out personal business due to the time I find myself taking to field complaints and question documents that are generated by you for council’s consideration.

“I am also finding myself rather weary of fielding complaints and defending you to the public for spelling errors, grammatical errors, tones and content of letters, questionable hiring practices and the supply of incorrect information to the residents of Faro.”

Price was suspended for two weeks with full pay and appealed the suspension.

She returned to work on February 4.

On February 5, she applied to land planning to have the daycare lot subdivided.

The rush to subdivide and complete the sale may have been caused by pressure from the RCMP.

On February 5, the town received an e-mail from the RCMP saying they required an offer to sell from the town by February 19.

This is far from the first time that there have been unusual dealings within the town offices, said Kvemo.

A similar thing happened three years ago, when the town sold a fourplex to the outgoing CAO for $10,000.

“It wasn’t in top shape, but great shape. Two of the units could have been moved into the next day,” said Kvemo.

“It was a fabulous parting gift.

“This has been going on for years.”

This should be a concern for more than just the citizen’s of Faro, added Kvemo.

“Yukoners and Canadians have poured millions of dollars into this community. These houses belong to everybody,” he said.

“Why shouldn’t people in Whitehorse, or anywhere in the Yukon or anywhere in the country be able to bid on that house?”

Rose Price is now leaving Faro for a job in Carmacks.

She did not return requests for comment.

Faro Mayor Heather Campbell also did not reply to questions submitted by the News via e-mail.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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