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.