Concerns were expressed at city council’s meeting Tuesday about the rising cost of building a new city hall.
The estimate provided last October, based on a finalized concept, was pegged at $20.8 million.
A new budget amount provided to council based on a refined estimate now puts the project cost at $24.55 million, according to the administrative report presented to council Tuesday.
Coun. Laura Cabott said the additional $3.75 million represents a significant change.
She noted the design option selected includes 1,500 square feet of extra floor space that isn’t required now.
“We don’t have the money right now,” Cabott told her colleagues on council. “We do not need it right now.”
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, on the other hand, said providing additional floor space while building a new city hall is the right time to do it.
“If we plan for growth now, it is going to be less expensive and it’s the best use of the taxpayers’ money,” she said.
Wayne Tuck, the city’s engineer for special projects, agreed that putting off renovations means they would only be more expensive in the future.
The proposed option for a new city hall would see the demolition of the portion of city hall built in 1966. That’s the front part of the building facing Second Avenue where city staff accept parking fines, utility payments and the like.
The project also includes the demolition of the old fire hall that sits next to city hall.
There would be extensive renovations to the newer section of city hall built in 1987.
New construction would involve building a two-storey section that would tie into the portion of city hall that wouldn’t be demolished.
It includes an indoor transit shelter complete with public washrooms, located approximately where the old fire hall sits. It involves a new exterior around the entire city hall (see accompanying image) and upgrading energy efficiency to well above national and local standards.
A biomass heating system — wood heat – would be installed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The main entrance would be moved to Steele Street, and Steele would become a one-way street for eastbound traffic – with vehicles moving toward the Yukon River from Second Avenue.
The project involves turning the north side of Steele Street into landscaped space available for public use. It’s where Veteran’s Square would be relocated to with existing war monuments, and a possible future cenotaph to be designed by the Royal Canadian Legion and the community.
The newest section of city hall, where the mayor’s office is currently, would be completely renovated.
Additional staff parking would be created with provisions to charge electric vehicles at a couple of parking stalls.
Tuck explained in an interview this morning the staff at city hall would have to be relocated for approximately two years and council meetings would have to be held at a different location.
The rebuild is part of the city’s Building Consolidation Project. That also involved building the new Operations Building off Range Road, the new fire hall on Black Street and closing down the old and rundown Municipal Services Building on Fourth Avenue.
That structure is currently empty, as many staff moved into the Operations Building while others have been relocated while awaiting completion of their new office space at the new city hall.
A local architectural firm is currently working on the detailed design and engineering of the city hall project. It’s expected the work will be completed late next month.
The schedule calls for putting the project out to tender in August, with project completion scheduled for the fall of 2023. A portion of federal funding confirmed for the project requires that it be spent by the summer of 2023.
Of the $24.6-million budget, $16.6 million has been committed through federal and Yukon government funding, almost all of it coming from Ottawa.
The city will cover the remaining $7.95 million, which includes the budget increase, from city reserves, with no need to raise taxes, according to the administrative report.
The report notes once the detailed design work is complete, the city will be in a position to make an even more refined budget estimate.
There was concern expressed last night that as the project moves forward, the cost could keep escalating.
Coun. Samson Hartland said he understands the importance of the project but is concerned about the increasing expense. He’s concerned the cost estimate will keep growing with the next, more refined estimate based on detailed design.
“We need to find ways to stay within our means,” Hartland told his colleagues.
Coun. Dan Boyd also expressed concern about the potential for further budget increases – particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The price of plywood – when it’s available – is four times what it was a year ago, he said.
Boyd said the price of structure lumber is also going up.
Tuck told Boyd they have built contingencies into the budget, along with additional contingencies.
Council is being asked to pass a resolution at its meeting next week calling on administration to bring forward the next estimate as soon as it is prepared in order for council to consider a budget amendment to its 2021-2024 capital budget.