Whitehorse Daily Star

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Coun. Ted Laking

Laking wants project re-examined

Coun. Ted Laking wants his colleagues on council to halt the new city hall project and take another look at it – perhaps even cancel it.

By Chuck Tobin on January 12, 2022

Coun. Ted Laking wants his colleagues on council to halt the new city hall project and take another look at it – perhaps even cancel it.

Laking put his colleagues on notice at Monday evening’s meeting that he will be bringing forward a motion at next Monday’s meeting to put the brakes on the project.

In his motion, Laking notes the replacement or renovation of city hall was estimated in 2014 at $9.7 million.

The estimated scope and costs of the project have increased significantly in the last seven years and are now sitting at $26.2 million, says the motion.

It notes the money is coming from taxpayers, and the City of Whitehorse has an inherent responsibility to the taxpayers of the city.

“Be it resolved that administration be directed to halt the city hall renovation project and return to council with options to reduce the estimated costs that include but are not limited to:

• Reductions of scope;

• Cancellation;

• Consideration of different locations such as the Operations Building for the relocation of staff; and

• Plans to contain and prevent future cost increases related to the project.”

Under the proposed project, the old, front part of city hall facing Second Avenue, dating back to 1966, would be demolished.

A new two-storey structure would be built that would tie in with the back half of the existing city hall, built in the mid-1980s. The new building would include a transit stop inside, with washrooms.

It’s expected the construction tender will be issued soon.

City hall staff would be temporarily relocated. The weekly city council meeting would have to be held at a different location.

The city hall project is the last of the major projects in the city’s building consolidation plan, under which the new $55-million Operations Building and the new $3.8-million Black Street firehall were built.

The city has received a commitment from the territorial and federal governments to provide approximately $15 million toward the city hall project.

In a press release issued Tuesday, Laking notes the estimated project cost jumped from $9.7 million in 2014 to $18.9 million in 2019.

It rose again to $20.8 million in 2020, then increased to $24.6 million in March 2021.

Laking notes in the release that council was informed on Dec. 6 that the estimate had increased yet again, to $26.2 million.

In his press release, the councillor pointed out the project estimate is now $16.5 million over the original estimate,. That represents a 170 per cent increase, “and construction has not even started.”

Laking was asked in an interview with the Star Tuesday if it’s realistic to think his colleagues on council would vote to halt the major project at this late stage.

“I’m hopeful my colleagues will listen to my arguments and agree to take a closer look with me,” he said.

Laking said the motion itself does not tie the hands of the city.

The motion, he said, is about ensuring oversight and scrutiny.

Taxpayers have entrusted city council with their money, he emphasized.

Comments (33)

Up 3 Down 7

Observer on Jan 17, 2022 at 4:23 pm

Yes it is all about "name recognition", getting that name out there, WS doing their part.

Up 10 Down 3

Adam Smith on Jan 17, 2022 at 4:07 pm

@Nathan Living

I agree. We need to stop accepting all of this 'free' money from the federal liberals. It only adds to the national debt that will have to be paid back by all Canadians including us here in the Yukon.

It's getting ridiculous with the amount of projects both for roads and buildings. We don't need this much! And it is driving up the price of housing when we are trying to cool it. This same goes for City Council.

Yes, it's good for construction companies and roadwork companies like Cobalt, Ketza, Pelly Construciton, Sidhu, Nuway, Castlerock, TSL and others, but they are making enough money as it is. Our contractors and tradesmen will survive just fine without these big bucks constantly rolling in.

I hate to say it but we need to get the Yukon Party back into power so they can start turning down some of this largesse we are swimming in and cool the housing market down! We know they won't play ball with the federal government and that's a good thing.

Ted Laking is setting a good example for others to follow in stopping the money pipeline.

Up 8 Down 19

LetItSnow on Jan 17, 2022 at 7:57 am

Grandstand much? Is this what YP flunkies do?

Instead of yapping about the cost overruns on a new city hall how about talk about snow removal in the city? It is quite clear that for the future we will need more equipment to deal with larger amounts of snowfalls. Take that one on Teddy. Bear with me on this one okay?

Up 20 Down 4

Nathan Living on Jan 16, 2022 at 9:50 pm

Free Federal funding comes from the rest of Canada; why would we waste it just because it's there?

Why contribute to the national deficit and burden our children and grandchildren?
Why continue to support civic grandiose spending?
Why did we elect the current mayor and council if they fail to get our basic values.

Up 16 Down 25

Det on Jan 14, 2022 at 4:07 pm

@ Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

In addition, Ted’s plan has the money lapsing and going back to Canada rather into the pockets of business, contractors and trades people. Ted is all about Ted. Getting his name out there in the next territorial election.

I’m not in favour of a new City hall, taxpayers can’t afford it right now. COW should be looking toward finding internal efficiency and bringing costs down.

Up 13 Down 22

Weird on Jan 14, 2022 at 3:13 pm

Thanks for the quick reply Ted. Since you are monitoring this comment page, can you also tell us where you stand on the City's mandatory vaccination policy? A clear FOR or AGAINST would suffice.

Up 27 Down 9

Jim on Jan 13, 2022 at 10:26 pm

Stop the madness. Ted at least sees that the cost may just be too great. Of course the last council squandered away design money thinking with champagne taste on a beer budget. But to keep forging ahead no matter what the cost is just insane. It seems lately all the infrastructure seems to be for City officials to adorn themselves in new lush offices. More energy efficient? Of course, but that can’t be an excuse to throw away a building of age that many of us still live in. If as a one commenter says that to retrofit the roof would be in the millions, then cancel that too.
For some reason, contractors, suppliers and architects are fleecing governments when it comes to building. Whether it’s the regulations, over designing, expensive taste it’s out of hand. I just saw an article on a development for housing the homeless in Nova Scotia that will consist of 63 units for $4.9 million and officials think that’s getting to high. We are looking at buying an old hotel/hostel for 10 million with a 5 million reno. Or I believe 32 units for low cost and welfare apartments with the best view in town for about $14 million. Building in the Yukon is out of control, especially when it comes to governments. It may be prudent to just pull back and wait for a slower building season. If contractors are not overbooked, you just may see more realistic pricing.

Up 28 Down 17

Jim on Jan 13, 2022 at 8:22 pm

This Laking dude should take over for the Slippery Silver, or is it Shady Sandy. Either way Sandy Silver does not do his job well. Laking seems to do his job well.

Up 30 Down 11

Nathan Living on Jan 13, 2022 at 4:47 pm

Issuing a press release suggests that Ted is unwilling to be suppressed by the way council usually does business.

To Mr. Lacking's credit, the loner councillors in the past who actually had ethics were well respected by city taxpayers and they kept council in check in a good way.

Up 20 Down 8

Charlie's Aunt on Jan 13, 2022 at 4:30 pm

@ Penny Wise; Following your reasoning, it would imply you think the average homeowner with an older house, would be better off if they demolished it and rebuilt, rather than upgrade insulation and heating system. The people who administer grants for that purpose must have it all wrong and some of us should have called in a bulldozer.

Up 17 Down 10

Vern Schlimbesser on Jan 13, 2022 at 3:32 pm

@ pennywise...
This is the type of thinking has been most favoured in Yukon in the past, the credo of our governments at all levels....never reassess, if you make a mistake, or things go wrong, never change, never admit a mistake.
"It is only going to cost more in the future" is the mantra of irresponsibility.
If we don't step off this treadmill the "New World Order" is ultimately the only way out....and you won't like that when it's thrust upon you.

Up 53 Down 14

Reply to "Weird" on Jan 13, 2022 at 1:30 pm

He is smart to put out press releases. The former mayor scared his council so bad they rarely spoke out against him. "Conservative virtue signalling"? Your comment reeks of Liberal grumpiness, wishing it was a Liberal Council Member who actually gave a crap and had a mind of their own. But alas - he is conservative-minded and that somehow needs to be "attacked".

I for one and really happy to have a councillor who doesn't pander to the mayor or go along with the BS on their agenda. He is doing an excellent job.

As for running for something else - I am sure he would be a better government minister than city councillor. Certainly be a better minister than many in the job now. The City Council is and has been a stepping stone for other politics forever. This is nothing new. I for one hope he does throw his name in the ring down the road. He'd do a great job!

Up 25 Down 51

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish on Jan 13, 2022 at 10:43 am

Scrapping this new build would be penny wise and pound foolish. Laking could appear to be 'looking out for the taxpayer' but he would be screwing them in the long run.

-First, a lot of planning was already done and that comes at a cost which would now be thrown away because a design/budget does have a shelf life. You can't just dust it off 10 years from now because a lot of variables will have changed.

-Second, this old building will need a bunch of renovations, including a new roof I've heard, so you will need to likely pour a few million into it just to stay up to code for a few years longer.

-Thirdly, due to its 1960s insulation and heating system, the City is paying to heat the atmosphere above the building all winter. Alternatively during some of our hot summer days, the city will be paying to cool off the atmosphere. With a new building, energy costs would drop immediately.

-4th point, the cost to replace the building will only go up over time. If you think, costs will come down in a few years time, you are living in an alternate reality. Construction costs will only go up, so if you think it is expensive right now, just wait and see what it will be 5-10 years from now!

So basically 'looking out for the taxpayer' is the equivalent of conservative virtue signaling. Sounds great, but is actually costing taxpayers more in the long term.

Up 70 Down 19

Sharon on Jan 13, 2022 at 10:01 am

This guy has done more work for Council and for Whitehorse in a month than the last one did in three years.

Up 27 Down 72

Weird on Jan 13, 2022 at 9:08 am

"In a press release issued Tuesday" - Since when do individual councilors put out press releases? What a weird thing to do.

If he really wanted to make changes he would talk with his fellow councilors behind close doors and then they could issue a press release together in a spirit of cooperation.

This just smacks of conservative virtue signaling instead. My guess is that he is only on council to make a name for himself so he can run for something else. That is the only way it makes sense for him to be issuing press releases and trying to get into the media spotlight.

Up 54 Down 21

yukoner on Jan 13, 2022 at 6:06 am

Ted Laking for mayor. You have my vote.

Up 43 Down 15

Himbo on Jan 13, 2022 at 5:42 am

I think you guys need to find a new contractor to do appraisal for you, sounds like you guys are getting ripped off… 250% increase of price in 7 years? Right….

Up 57 Down 18

martin on Jan 12, 2022 at 10:36 pm

Mr. Laking you'll get my vote and support. The Fed and Territorial funding might be tempting, but still 10 mill for City Taxpayers.

Up 51 Down 13

Vern Schlimbesser on Jan 12, 2022 at 7:33 pm

Thank you. You are right. Please continue to listen to your own conscience.

Up 62 Down 16

Lost In the Yukon on Jan 12, 2022 at 7:04 pm

… this is the reason I voted for Laking. A person who understands that this is taxpayer money and Council has a responsibility to spend it wisely and on essential services and to not keep raising taxes every year making it harder and harder for Yukoners on fixed incomes to stay in their homes.

Up 58 Down 17

iBrian on Jan 12, 2022 at 6:39 pm

Oh man, Ted has it going on. It’s like he knows the value of a buck by working for it. This is great to see. I don’t live in the city, however I do go to it once a month for supplies.
Good to see, way to go Ted.

Up 57 Down 16

Crunch on Jan 12, 2022 at 5:52 pm

Mr Laking: Did you know your making people feel very uncomfortable? This has not been allowed in the Yukon for quite some time. I believe Duke and Doug were the last ones and may they RIP. The COW, probably the most out of control municipality in the entire world.

Up 64 Down 16

riverdale resident on Jan 12, 2022 at 5:21 pm

Thank god he was elected. Not one council member has questioned the former mayor’s pet projects in many, many years. It is refreshing to see that a city councillor can in fact stand up for taxpayers. I hope the others and the newbie mayor take note and realize that they too can take a stand and make life better for residents. Thank you Mr. Laking.

Up 33 Down 6

Nathan Living on Jan 12, 2022 at 5:02 pm

I am watching this very closely. Was hoping the new council would impress us. But so far that has not been the case.

We will see where Teds's motion takes us.

Up 31 Down 7

bonanzajoe on Jan 12, 2022 at 4:34 pm

TMYK. But crosswalks and lines don't usually start till late September anyway. What will they do until then? Oh, and by the way, I heard downtown snow clearing is scheduled for sometime in mid June.

Up 33 Down 8

bonanzajoe on Jan 12, 2022 at 4:32 pm

"City hall staff would be temporarily relocated." The Hope Centre on 4th ave. would be a good temporary location. Would also give the staff experience on how another part of society lives. And of course, save a whole lot of money. But hey, if ya ain't got the money, spend it anyway.

Up 32 Down 12

bonanzajoe on Jan 12, 2022 at 4:26 pm

"The new building would include a transit stop inside, with washrooms." Now guess who will be using those facilities all day long and into the wee hours of the evening? Hey, I have an idea. Why don't City Hall and governments get together and finance putting up a whole bunch of canvass tents all over the downtown area. And furnish them with canvas chairs and Army cotts. That should solve the homeless problem and save a whole lot of dough.

Up 13 Down 55

BnR on Jan 12, 2022 at 4:16 pm

Teddys figured out that construction costs increase over time.
With that sort of acumen, he was wasted on the YPs chief of staff position.
The city is going to keep growing. We either do it now, or wait until the costs are even higher.

Up 53 Down 10

Dave47 on Jan 12, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Excellent move Ted. All levels of governments overspend because none of them have a bottom line. I don’t know you and I don’t live in Whitehorse, but we need a lot more councillors and MLAs who think like you do.

Up 40 Down 9

Yukoner on Jan 12, 2022 at 3:41 pm

It appears Councillor Laking is a little out of touch with what has been happening with all construction projects in the past few years. I agree it seems exorbitant, but that is just the cost of things. But cancel it and buy a few more graders, loaders, etc., and deal with the snow removal properly, that would be money well spent.

Up 57 Down 9

Thank You on Jan 12, 2022 at 3:25 pm

Thank you, thank you!! Finally, someone on council who has the guts to try and stop the proposed monstrosity of a building. Whitehorse does NOT need a building that has absolutely nothing to do with the history of Whitehorse let alone the ‘Wilderness City’! I certainly hope the rest of council votes to cancel the project.

Up 148 Down 22

My Opinion on Jan 12, 2022 at 2:34 pm

Good Job Mr. Laking. That is why we sent you there.

Something has to be done to stop this cities spending spree. Most all of it spent on their own work spaces, aren't they just special? YTG to their credit is still working out of a 1940's building for their automotive repair facility, same with the Whitehorse YTG Grader station. Somehow they manage to live without the most modern facilities known to man.

Yet the City still can't manage to clear the streets. They can give tickets for uncleared sidewalks, or placing said snow on the street, but there is no timeline for getting their job done whatsoever.

The City is so spoiled rotten. Take away their allowance until they can behave properly.

Up 135 Down 20

TMYK on Jan 12, 2022 at 2:30 pm

At least there is one sane person on City Council. The rest of the lot are good for painting crosswalks and that’s about it.

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