Whitehorse Daily Star

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ADDITIONAL PURPOSE – An expansion for buses is now being proposed for the city’s new operations building. Sketch courtesy of RDHA ARCHITECTS Right: WAYNE TUCK

Operations building cost could rise by $9.2 M

The price tag on the city’s proposed operations building could rise by nearly $10 million.

By Stephanie Waddell on April 19, 2017

The price tag on the city’s proposed operations building could rise by nearly $10 million.

That would happen if city council approves an administrative recommendation that would move the transit department to the proposed building for an estimated $9.2 million.

That move would bring the anticipated cost up to $54.9 million.

The additional funding would include $8.6 million expected from the federal gasoline tax and another $600,000 that would come from reserves.

If the gas tax funding is not OKed, officials would look to move forward with council’s approval on the option that does not feature space for transit, said Peter O’Blenes, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations.

That would cost $45.7 million, with the city anticipating borrowing $18.8 million, another $15.2 million coming from the gas tax and the remaining $11.6 million coming from reserves.

At Tuesday evening’s council meeting, Wayne Tuck, the city’s manager of engineering services, brought forward the recommendation to move ahead with the option that includes the transit expansion.

The recommendation includes the provision to release the construction tender for the work.

The proposed building would be constructed off of Range Road in the area of Two Mile Hill, moving operations staff and equipment out of the downtown area and Marwell.

The land has already been cleared, a roadway constructed and the tender awarded for road surfacing.

The building would be 9,247 square metres without the transit expansion.

Adding another 2,182 square metres would provide the space for up to 17 conventional city buses and three Handy buses.

“The goal of the operations building project is to reduce operating costs, service inefficiencies and the city’s carbon footprint,” Tuck said.

“When the project is complete, the city will relocate operating staff and equipment from a number of undersized buildings and rental properties that are nearing or at the end of their life-cycle to a new, energy-efficient building.

“The new operations building will reduce energy consumption, thus meeting our sustainability target of 80 per cent better than the 2011 National Energy Code’s target.”

RDHA Architects was contracted by the city last May to design the building and oversee construction.

The contract required the building to be designed so that the transit and parks departments could be added in the future.

If transit moves to the new operations building, the city’s parks and trails department could move from an older building in Marwell to the current transit building in Marwell. That would happen after the operations building would open in 2019.

As Tuck explained when questioned by Coun. Samson Hartland, the parks and trails department is outgrowing its space, and the building is older and “dilapidated.”

The transit building would provide the space it needs for staff and equipment that is currently stored behind the building on property leased from the Yukon government.

While the lease is minimal – at $1 a year – the territory has been asking the city to vacate the property. There are next to no options for the city to store that equipment, Tuck said.

He also pointed to the benefits of having the transit department at the operations building. Bus maintenance would be performed rather than having buses that need work going from Marwell to the Range Road site.

If the city does not go ahead with adding space for transit at the operations building, renovations would be needed at the Marwell facility.

“The lot for this construction project is ideally located near the geographical centre of the city and would become the central hub for all of the city’s operations and transit for the next 50 years,” Tuck stated in his report to council.

“No expansion of the facility should be required for at least 20 years.”

O’Blenes said in an interview if council approves the tender release next week, it would likely go out in May and be awarded in June. Ideally, work would then get underway this summer.

“We really want them to start right away,” O’Blenes said. He acknowledged there would be many factors that would go into the start date for construction.

As Tuck commented during his presentation: “The timing for our operations building couldn’t be better.”

A number of major building projects are well underway or wrapping up, he noted. That makes the start of the operations building possibly an ideal time for contractors looking for new projects.

Under questioning by Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, Tuck emphasized no additional funds are proposed to be borrowed for the addition of transit into the operations building.

The proposal would see the city borrow up to $18.8 million.

That’s an issue Hartland has continued to take issue with. He has noted the city will likely have to consider changing its own policy around debt servicing.

And that’s something, he said, that should go to a referendum.

Throughout the council discussion and in speaking to reporters following the meeting, Hartland argued other options should be considered, such as renovating the current transit building.

Tuck countered his argument by noting any renovations to the transit building would be done as a “stop-gap” until an expansion to the operations building could be done to accommodate transit there.

As the recommendation stands, Hartland said, council is being asked to make three significant decisions in one vote.

Members are being asked to consider a tender which would have ramifications to taxpayers for two decades or longer, to expand the budget and to increase the city’s debt.

Hartland described it as the “biggest decision in the city’s history.”

He noted it’s a “$50-million decision”; more than the city has approved for any project before – including the Canada Games Centre.

The recreation complex cost $43 million to build, with much of that funding coming from the federal and territorial governments for the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

Mayor Dan Curtis, meanwhile, continued to emphasize the need for the operations building and the benefits of moving transit to the new site rather than renovating its current location.

“It is a huge savings,” he said, noting that eventually, the department would likely move up to the operations building.

This would allow the work to be done now for the transit department, rather than later when construction costs will likely have risen.

“Transit has become an essential service; it really has,” Curtis said in highlighting the need for more space for buses for a growing ridership.

Curtis also continued to argue the need for the operations building. He noted the Municipal Services Building on Fourth Avenue was built at a time when the city’s population was only at about 5,000 – not approaching 30,000.

Council will vote next week on whether to move forward with the plans that include transit for the operations building and release the tender.

Coun. Rob Fendrick was absent from Tuesday’s council meeting.

Comments (7)

Up 0 Down 0

Anie on Apr 26, 2017 at 7:07 am

J your facts are incorrect. The town does not have a transit system, but are exploring options, and fixed subsidies for uber for some specific routes is an experiment as part of that exploration.


Up 16 Down 1

y on Apr 21, 2017 at 7:06 pm

Have you seen the Ontario town that did away with transit and replaced it with Uber? Still possibly more cost effective to have everyone call a cab as to what this inflated and grand design of transit costs

Up 36 Down 4

Lost in the Yukon on Apr 19, 2017 at 6:52 pm

A couple of things come to mind ... "drunken sailor" "public money is not real money" "self-importance" "couldn't balance a cheque book to save my life"
While our irresponsible Mayor and lemming council is at it why not add a Wellness Centre, showers, weight room and daily foot and head massages.

WTF ... there needs to be a referendum on this whole project and Council held responsible for the waste of money that has already happened!

Up 32 Down 6

Arturs on Apr 19, 2017 at 5:50 pm

I place little faith in the judgement of either the Manager of Engineering or Mayor Dan Curtis. The MOE lost me with those stupid little traffic circles everywhere that were placed in already quiet neighbourhoods to slow down traffic when all they really accomplished was congestion and fewer parking spaces within the city. The Mayor has a great propensity to stretch numbers on anything which support his vision regardless of tax increases on an already beleaguered population. We have a transit system that would support a city of 75,000 and still he is adding more buses hoping that people will suddenly want to add 2 hrs to their daily commute back and forth to work. (Won't happen.) What mileage is on buses being replaced as my mechanic friend who has worked on these extensively says you can get 800,000 miles or 20 years of service with of course necessary repairs. The Surplus fund should be renamed to Dan's Fancy Fund as he has misused it for other than which it was intended. I can see Hartland becoming Mayor in the not to distant future once these Rockerfellers are shuffled out. None to soon either.

Up 31 Down 0

sigh, just get on with it on Apr 19, 2017 at 4:49 pm

In spite of limited support and huge risk, this project is going ahead. But let's make sure we as taxpayers keep track of the number of $$ spent, and who has said what about the costs and advantages. I for one have no confidence that this project will be completed on budget.

Up 54 Down 4

June Jackson on Apr 19, 2017 at 3:22 pm

A mere 10 million? that won't stop this council.. I see more and more tax hikes, and larger than ever in our future.

Up 49 Down 5

Adele Sandrock on Apr 19, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Danny-Boy and you really want us to believe there will be no new tax

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