First Nation dodges city bill collectors

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation owes Whitehorse taxpayers nearly $1 million. The government has had an outstanding bill for more than a year and…

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation owes Whitehorse taxpayers nearly $1 million.

The government has had an outstanding bill for more than a year and Whitehorse should consider court action if the delinquency continues, says councillor Doug Graham.

The money is owed for work done on the future site of Kwanlin Dun’s waterfront cultural centre at Black Street and First Avenue.

The First Nation asked the city to connect the 1.72-hectare property up to city services when most of Front Street was redeveloped in the summer of 2006.

The city agreed, did the work, billed Kwanlin Dun in November of 2006, but still hasn’t been paid, said Graham.

“There was a contract in place for $892,000,” he said. “We’ve financed them for 14 months, it will be over 14 months by the time this is paid.”

The city is also entitled to the two per cent-a-month compounded interest for late payment that Kwanlin Dun was notified about when it received the bill, he said.

That’s an additional $235,000 on top of the money the First Nation already owes, said Graham.

“I just don’t believe that we, as a municipality, should be in the business of financing other orders of government and that’s essentially what we did.

“If it was any other taxpayer in the city of Whitehorse, I can guarantee you they would have been taken to court and they would have been charged interest long before now.

“Why would we treat these people different than any other taxpayer? I want some interest for the time that we’ve held that debt on our books.”

The city sent an invoice for the work to Kwanlin Dun in November of 2006, said Robert Fendrick, the city’s director of administrative services on Monday night.

“We would have liked to have seen the money by December 2006,” Fendrick said.

“We sent some letters expressing our desire to collect the funds as per our contribution agreement.”

Recently, the city received a letter from the aboriginal government indicating that an $892,000 payment would be made by the end of this month, said Fendrick.

The First Nation hasn’t volunteered paying interest and city administration hasn’t asked them for it, he said.

 “Interest was not part of the contribution agreement.”

When asked for a copy of the letter and the contribution agreement Fendrick said he was not able to provide them to the News.

The payment is late, but she is optimistic the money is coming, said Mayor Bev Buckway on Tuesday.

“I’m optimistic that we’re not going to have to go to great lengths and the money that’s owed to us will come forward,” she said.

While interest penalties were clearly laid out in Kwanlin Dun’s bill, she’s not sure council will seek interest, said Buckway.

“Well, when we do send out invoices, there’s an interest stated on our invoices. Council has not had a big discussion on how we’re going to pursue that.

“When we work with other orders of government it’s different than if you’re working with your regular taxpayer.”

Kwanlin Dun Chief Mike Smith and executive director Ken Hodgins could not be reached for comment.