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Community freezers get repairs in Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet, Sanirajak

The cold is returning to Baker Lake, Sanirajak and Rankin Inlet, and it’s not due to Old Man Winter making an early appearance.

Repairs to all three communities’ aging and malfunctioning community freezers are underway or about to begin.

This was the unfortunate scene in Baker Lake in mid-July when the community freezer malfunctioned and an estimated 5,000 lbs of meat was spoiled. Two of the freezer’s motors were repaired in late August and the other two motors are expected to be fixed soon.
photo courtesy of Philip Putumiraqtuq

In Baker Lake, a technician flew in and was able to fix two of four motors in late August.

“(The freezer) is now up and running and open to the community,” said Philip Putumiraqtuq, chair of the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization.

He added that parts have been ordered for the remaining two motors and they are expected to be operational in the near future.

Even with two motors in use, the temperature inside the community freezer dipped two -18 C, according to Putumiraqtuq.

“It’s very useful now,” he said. “I’ve seen people now reusing it, so that was good.”

Putumiraqtuq noted that a pad is in place for the construction of a new community freezer and building materials for it are expected to arrive on sealift.

As for whether compensation would be provided to those who collectively lost an estimated 5,000 lbs of meat during the summer thaw, Putumiraqtuq said only one person has requested restitution and the topic hasn’t yet been addressed formally at an HTO meeting.

In Sanirajak, where residents were unable to store bowhead maktaaq in the broken community freezer after a successful hunt in early August, a technician was expected to arrive on Sept. 4 to get the freezer functioning mechanically once again, said Abe Qammaniq, vice-chair of the community’s hunters and trappers association.

Similar to Baker Lake, a replacement community freezer is in the works. The Department of Economic Development and Transportation (ED&T) is collaborating with Sanirajak to develop a new community freezer that’s anticipated to cost $600,000-$800,000, stated David Boyle, ED&T’s director of community operations for the Qikiqtaaluk region. Funding will come from the department’s Country Food Distribution Program.

Construction is targetted for the summer or fall of 2021, Boyle added.

In Rankin Inlet, the community freezer is expected to be back in operation this week as a refrigeration technician is due to make repairs on Wednesday. The community has been without the main freezer for approximately six weeks but a portable freezer has been made available to residents in the interim.