Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

NO GO – City council voted Monday night to cancel the Alexander Street beautification work between Second and Fourth avenues. Area residents opposed the project last month because of unsavoury activity in the neighbourhood related to the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter. They said providing more street benches and the like would encourage more loitering and the disturbing behaviour that comes with it.

Alexander Street landscaping won’t proceed

City council voted Monday night to cancel a landscaping project for Alexander Street in light of concerns raised by area residents about unsettling behaviour in the neighbourhood.

By Chuck Tobin on September 10, 2019

City council voted Monday night to cancel a landscaping project for Alexander Street in light of concerns raised by area residents about unsettling behaviour in the neighbourhood.

City administration had recommended in late July that council award the contract to Lane’s Yukon Yardworks for $152,359.

The company provided the lowest of two bids.

The work was to include planting beds, planting trees and shrubs, installing benches and street furniture between Second and Fourth avenues as part of the Alexander Street reconstruction.

But several area residents appeared before council at its Aug. 5 meeting, council’s last session before its three-week summer break.

They raised objections about proceeding with the landscaping, as it would encourage more loitering and unsavoury activity. That night, council deferred the vote on the contract award.

On Monday night, administration put forward a recommendation that city council cancel the project because it’s getting too late in the season to begin the work.

Cancelling the project would mean losing the federal funding that had been secured, council was told.

But members of council agreed to scrap the work.

Council was told there would be no legal ramifications associated with withdrawing the project.

Coun. Laura Cabott told her colleagues she didn’t think it was wise to proceed with the street beautification at this time.

“We heard loud clear from residents and property owners in that area to not proceed, not to spend money, not to do the proposed work until such time as some of the bigger issues have been tackled at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter,” Cabott said.

She said the city can revisit the project next year.

Several local residents described to council a neighbourhood where there’s an abundance of disturbing behaviour, including public drinking, having sex in public, fighting and defecating.

Beautifying the area and providing more benches and street furniture would only invite more people to hang out and lead to more of the same activity that has become disturbing for the neighbourhood to watch, area residents told council.

A teenaged girl told council she doesn’t feel safe in her yard, and can’t sleep with the windows open because of the yelling going on outside.

The shelter was originally built by the Yukon government as the shelter for the homeless, to be operated by the Salvation Army as the Centre of Hope. It opened in December 2017.

But after disagreements between the government and the Salvation Army regarding operating procedures and funding arrangements, the building was turned back last January to the government and its Department of Health and Social Services.

Complaints of unsavoury behaviour in the area have been on the rise.

Cabott said she is looking forward to working with Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost and the plan she is rolling out to address some of the issues at the emergency shelter.

Coun. Dan Boyd expressed regret that some of the work along Alexander Street is not going to be done, and now the city has lost the federal funding.

When council voted to defer the contract award on Aug. 5, he wasn’t aware it would ultimately lead to cancelling the project because he didn’t have that information.

There were aspects of the street beautification that could have gone forward while still addressing the concerns of area residents, he said. Coun. Samson Hartland said he is sure alternative funding sources will be found when the time comes.

Comments (6)

Up 20 Down 2

Michael Miller on Sep 11, 2019 at 8:29 pm

I think this project can be reevaluated after the Centre makes a few changes. Alexander Street deserves resolution of the recent problems followed by beautification.

Up 16 Down 23

Steven on Sep 11, 2019 at 7:49 am

It would have been nice to see some trees planted at least.

Up 19 Down 24

Horacio Hornblower on Sep 10, 2019 at 6:05 pm

Hopes and dreams, objectivity, respect for the law, common decency and now the Alexander Street beautification project... Just one more thing in the long list of things that the Liberals have killed... Gooooooaaall!

Up 38 Down 7

jc on Sep 10, 2019 at 5:19 pm

So, the council didn't do any investigation or research in the area before they approved the work. Typical. Thank goodness we have citizens that are on the ball and are ready to fight for justice. The next step is to close down the centre, turn it into offices or apartments and build a homeless shelter somewhere else. And that location should be checked out with residents in the area.

Up 14 Down 35

MJH on Sep 10, 2019 at 4:28 pm

So let me get this straight, they didn't want the city adding benches because they were afraid it would encourage people to sit on them? The people they're so worried about loitering aren't going to be any less present in that neighborhood because there aren't any benches there, it's also the wrong way to tackle the social issues present in our community.

Up 33 Down 11

Mick on Sep 10, 2019 at 1:54 pm

Great to see that the meth heads and drunks are now in control of how tax money is being spent.

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