Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

EXPLAINING CITY ACCOMPLISHMENTS – Mayor Dan Curtis makes a presentation Wednesday afternoon at the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce’s Business Connect Conference.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

BRIEFING THE DELEGATES – Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, highlights the work to be done on planning for the downtown, Marwell, and the area around Robert Service Way on Wednesday at the conference

Questions raised on operations building contract

It’s unlikely the contract for construction of the city’s proposed operations building will be split into phases that would allow for smaller contracts.

By Stephanie Waddell on April 20, 2017

It’s unlikely the contract for construction of the city’s proposed operations building will be split into phases that would allow for smaller contracts.

Mayor Dan Curtis, however, says the city is committed to ensuring local companies benefit from the estimated $54.9-million project.

Curtis was part of a city panel at the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce’ Business Connect Conference at the Coast High Country Inn on Wednesday.

He was speaking largely to council’s strategic plan, part of which focused on operational efficiencies including the building of proposed operations building.

Council is set to vote next week on whether to move ahead with the plans that would see the construction of an option that would include the transit department in the building for the nearly $55-million cost.

Another option would see transit remain at its current location in Marwell, thereby bringing the cost of the operations building down by $9.2 million.

It’s proposed the transit option be included as the city is expected to cover the additional costs largely through federal gas tax funding (at $8.6 million) and reserves ($600,000).

The city was anticipating adding in the transit option at a future date, but with potential funding available that timeline is now being moved up.

If the transit option doesn’t go ahead, the current facility it uses in Marwell will need renovation work done, it was noted in a report to council that came forward Tuesday.

Peter O’Blenes, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations, outlined the plans for conference delegates during the panel yesterday before a question and answer session.

Just one person had questions for the city.

Robert Wills wondered about the possibility of breaking up the contract award to create more opportunities for Yukon firms to bid on the project. Wills argued the larger construction contract “rules out local contractors” and urged the city to “find a way” to split up the project into smaller pieces that would give Yukon

contractors more opportunity.

Curtis highlighted the city’s longer-term plans that would see the parks and trails department move to the current transit building, a new downtown service building constructed, work on the downtown firehall and energy upgrades to city hall.

He said there is work that is being planned in phases for years ahead with efforts to utilize local labour as much as possible.

The first phase of those efforts will be the operations building, which is anticipated to open in 2019.

Wills continued to push for the operations building to be built in phases that would allow for smaller contract awards that would enable local firms to bid.

O’Blenes noted that under the overall large construction contract on the building, there will be a number of subcontracts that are anticipated that will see a number of local companies work on them.

Curtis also noted that while the city recognizes the importance of local labour, there’s also a need to be as efficient as possible with costs.

The operations building along with the future building plans and upgrades for the city are all under the strategic plan’s priority of operating more efficiently, conference delegates were told during the main part of the panel discussion.

The strategic plan also features three other main priorities, that were outlined by Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services.

Those other priorities include planning for growth in Whitehorse, affordable housing, and environmental health in the city.

Gau highlighted the work to be done on planning for the downtown, Marwell, the area around Robert Service Way as well as an update to the city’s parking management plan.

Over the next year, he said the city will also work on a rewrite of “the mother of all plans” – the Official Community Plan, which acts as a guiding document to planning throughout the city.

Gau encouraged the business community to be involved with the consultation on each of the plans the city is working on.

On the affordable housing front, Gau pointed to efforts of governments – the city, First Nations, the territory – to work on housing issues.

Along with joint efforts on the issue, Gau pointed to the city’s initiative to provide development incentives to encourage the building of more affordable housing units.

Developers who meet the criteria for the incentive are granted back a portion of property taxes based on the higher property value from the property improvements.

Homeowners who add approved suites for their home that meet the criteria of the incentive policy are granted back the development cost charges they pay in adding the suite. In 2016, he noted, 40 legal suites were added to Whitehorse homes.

Finally, looking to environmental health, Gau explained the majority of the effort is around the city’s landfill and solid waste management.

Work is underway with the Yukon government and Association of Yukon Communities to find a territory-wide solution to deal with waste.

The city also continues its own efforts, including expanding on its commercial organics collection to keep food and compostable waste out of the landfill.

“We need to get on top of this,” Gau said.

The city also has plans to review the operations at the landfill and do a waste audit that will help determine the city’s direction on solid waste into the future.

The Business Connect Conference is set to wrap up later today.

Comments (6)

Up 4 Down 4

Lost in the Yukon on Apr 25, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Give a "thumbs up" if you think the Mayor should resign

Up 16 Down 1

Astonished! on Apr 21, 2017 at 8:22 pm

I'm somewhat taken aback at the Mayor's willingness to buy even more buses for the Transit system when they are way underused as it is.
If the transit system is so hot according to the Mayor, well then, he and Mr. Gau should set an example and use the system for getting back and forth to work so that others may follow their example or ...

Up 9 Down 6

Why is a firm from Toronto doing the work n this project? on Apr 21, 2017 at 1:38 pm

This shows the Mayor has no interest in supporting local firms.
Second the City as no plan to build into this project to support local firms.
This building is not spec'd for Leeds?
What mess a already!!
Wilf Carter

Up 7 Down 5

There is no money for housing $24 over 11 years on Apr 21, 2017 at 1:30 pm

The mayor does not get it on this project. There are a number of options on the table, such as a joint venture with YTG on this project. This reduces capital and operating costs to the City.
I have years of experience in this work as manager of a number of municipal works and project manager in the private sector. But the Mayor will not listen to the people with experience.
This is going to be a mess in the future.
Wilf Carter

Up 21 Down 3

north_of_60 on Apr 20, 2017 at 8:12 pm

We don't need a new mega-structure, aka. Curtis' Castle-on-the-Hill. We're not paying more taxes every year to enshrine your self-defined legacy.

What we can afford is an industrial style addition to the existing bus garage in Marwell to house buses, trucks and graders. All we need is something like the grader station in every other Yukon community.

Joe's points are well stated, I agree with what he's said.

Up 36 Down 9

Joe on Apr 20, 2017 at 4:08 pm

This is sureal. We can't afford an new building, much less an extra large building to house buses, we can't afford the buses that ride around half empty, we can't afford new services buildings, heck we certainly can't afford the high priced bureaucracy of this city. If we could afford it we wouldn't be borrowing money and begging for federal money.
We can afford well thought out energy upgrades and necessary repairs to existing buildings. Where do they think the money to pay for these loans and additional o/m will come from ? First they will raise individual property taxes as high as they can with our limited and slowly growing population and then, as they will need more money, they will go after small businesses. I and many other private sector investors and business owners in this community can see the outcomes of this overspending spree and we have to consider if we should further invest in this city. It's easy for bureaucrats with pension plans to substantiate unnecessarily putting our city in debt. Not so easy for Joe Blow to pay the taxes for years to come.

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