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Kugaaruk faces accommodations crunch

Kugaaruk has one motel with six rooms, but close to 100 people have landed in the community to do work, most of it related to construction.

With the motel booked solid, visiting Justice officials were prepared to fly an hour from Kugaaruk to Taloyoak to overnight last week and then fly back for a second day of court, but they managed to wrap up matters in a single day, said John Ivey, the community's senior administrative officer.

At the new hamlet office, the phone system is not fully functioning and needs service but Northwestel has nowhere to put a technician, Ivey said. The same applies to the computer network at the hamlet office.

"I'm getting calls, 'Can we stay at your house?'" Ivey said of the desperate need for rooms, adding that he sometimes allows people to bunk at his residence depending on how well he knows them and their purpose. "But I'm not a hotel... A lot of agencies are cancelling out because there's no place to stay here."

Kugaaruk's motel, Inukshuk Inns North, is owned by the Co-op, which also has a few houses available as short-term rentals. Asked whether adding more motel rooms in Kugaaruk is a possibility, John Simms, manager of business support services for Co-op in Winnipeg, replied: "It is currently being considered." He declined to say anything further.

Many of the temporary workers in Kugaaruk, population 930, are with Kudlik Construction, which has the contract to build the new school and renovated the old hamlet office to convert it into a makeshift school. Kudlik has established its own camp for those employees. Other workers are with GC North, which is putting modular classrooms in place and also erecting five-plexes.

Ivey said construction activity normally wraps up in November and then picks up again in March.

Adding to the current sense of urgency last week, a plane carrying about a dozen students and a couple of teachers from Arctic Bay had to make a landing due to mechanical trouble. It looked as if they would need a place to stay, but a second plane was dispatched to take them back to Arctic Bay that same night. Ivey was mentally preparing to put them up in the community hall.

"But it opened my eyes. We need equipment here. We need some beds and sleeping bags on standby for when these things happen," he said. "It's been extremely busy."