Whitehorse Daily Star

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NEW LOOK – An architectural rendition of what the new city hall would look like was included in the administrative report provided to city council at its meeting Tuesday. The project includes demolishing the front section of city hall that was built in 1966, as well as the old fire hall next door. A new two-storey section would be built onto the remaining section of city hall built in 1987, and there would be a new exterior for the entire building. Image courtesy KOBAYASHI + ZEDDA

‘We don’t have the money right now’: councillor

Concerns were expressed at city council’s meeting Tuesday about the rising cost of building a new city hall.

By Chuck Tobin on April 7, 2021

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.

Comments (31)

Up 28 Down 6

Karl on Apr 10, 2021 at 8:22 am

How about using the upper floors of the Macbride Museum next door instead? That place is still sitting there 2/3rds empty.

Up 34 Down 3

Vern Schlimbesser on Apr 9, 2021 at 7:45 am

Curteanu, who failed as a Liberal candidate in the last election, promotes massive spending while her alto-ego is away taking his turn running as a Liberal candidate in this election. Imagine that!

Up 9 Down 19

Whse Resident on Apr 8, 2021 at 11:56 pm

For those saying delaying this is smart... is it really? If it's going to cost 30 million today (let's be realistic - they won't stick to a 24m budget), isn't it better to suck it up now before it costs 35/40 million in 5+ years?

That said... be smart about it. I have zero issues with an indoor bus stop as it is winter for half the year up here. But ditch the more extravagant things like the redesigned one way street and the bathrooms. People make do now, I'm sure they'll find solutions in the future as well. Yeah big picture these are little things, but they add up.

Up 43 Down 1

Joe on Apr 8, 2021 at 9:17 pm

Hey city “planners” it's 2021, you don't need big offices, you can use pods, don't need big boardrooms, you can use virtual meetings, mayor can have a 6x8 office and share common meeting room with other staff. Get with the times.

Up 56 Down 0

Bingo on Apr 8, 2021 at 7:10 pm

Are KOBAYASHI + ZEDDA a sole source for the city? Holy what a gravy train these two corrugated metal maniacs have going on.

Up 16 Down 1

TheHammer on Apr 8, 2021 at 6:51 pm

Peter@ "Build and they will come." Who? The parking meter violators of course.

Up 24 Down 0

CJ2 on Apr 8, 2021 at 5:31 pm

"We should buy everything we want now, because it will be more expensive later." Classic rationale for any number of questionable financial decisions. So cheap now, we can't afford not to do it. Maybe we should do two of them. And boy, am I surprised they want to opt for demolition/new construction. What a shocker.

This should be tabled for the foreseeable future. The whole argument in favour is well, arguable. If anyone is capable of speaking up for all things in moderation anymore.

To be clear, it's not just the money that bothers me. There is an appetite for removing our landmarks that needs to be examined. A few years ago some of these people wanted to move the cenotaph where it was "out of the way". Maybe they're not the best evaluators of what to keep and what to toss.

Maybe we need a design committee, at least for public buildings. No other capital city would let one architectural firm and their acolytes in administration dictate so much of our urban aesthetics with this level of process.
At the very least the claims about the costs that support the preference to demolish should be independently evaluated.

Up 3 Down 17

Jason on Apr 8, 2021 at 4:12 pm

@Max ... It was built in 1966. Almost 60 years ago. It has to be replaced every once and a while.

Up 5 Down 12

Nathan Living on Apr 8, 2021 at 3:30 pm

They should build it including the extra space for future anticipated demand.
The extra space can be used by the Klondike Snowmobile Club to work on their sleds, paint signs and hold fundraisers.

Up 26 Down 0

I dare ya! on Apr 8, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Here is a thought:
Build out a new City Hall in the same location, they can occupy the first 2 floors then put 4 or 5 floors of compact 1 and 2 bedroom apartments.

The residential rent/lease pay back the cost of the building over time and people on the shitty end of the housing stick have a place to live.

Up 53 Down 6

Holy F@%k on Apr 8, 2021 at 12:34 pm

I wonder if the rest of Canada knows how this Northern sh@thole spends all of this free money only to keep it populated? The Yukon has become such a total embarrassment to the country and should start looking at itself in the mirror and perhaps only then will it recognize how utterly ridiculous and embarrassing it has become. Start by firing every single politician then hire decent people that actually give a sh@t about others instead of these idiots that don't know their ass from a hole in the ground...until then you will remain an embarrassment to our country.

Up 4 Down 11

YukonMax on Apr 8, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Looking at it from a remote community member... I would expect Whitehorse taxes to go as high as it takes to level out to the cost of living in the communities. Then, when the government, (which sits in Whitehorse) adjust "our" cost of living using "Whitehorse inflation rate", we in the communities would greatly benefit. So would Whitehorse, since we spend the bulk of our earnings there.

Up 51 Down 4

Max Mack on Apr 8, 2021 at 9:18 am

This building is a ridiculous extravagance coming on the heels of massive spending on the "operations" building and a new fire hall, and all the related infrastructure (e.g. new or altered roads).

The go/no-go question should not be premised on whether the building will be more expensive in the future. Of course it will be. The question should be whether the City can afford it within existing budget parameters. What other services have to be foregone, now and in the future? What taxes would need to be raised, now and in the future? What would be the impact on citizens?

An indoor transit hub with public washrooms? This is simply outrageous for a municipality the size of Whitehorse.
Biomass heating? Nice virtue signalling, but where are they going to get the wood? I already see truckloads of logs being trucked up the highway - probably to feed the other "green" biomass facilities that are currently operating in the Yukon.

Up 46 Down 1

Crunch on Apr 8, 2021 at 9:18 am

You'll notice whose pushing the project when the King is off on a field trip. If this pipe dream goes ahead they all will be replaced.

Up 43 Down 2

iota on Apr 8, 2021 at 8:31 am

I hope there's a charge for the electric car hookup in that vast free parking area! We wouldn't want City employees to receive undue perks at the cost of the taxpayer, would we? Oh, wait...

Up 31 Down 19

BnR on Apr 8, 2021 at 7:43 am

People complaining that Whitehorse residents are barely surviving is hilarious. The recreational vehicle dealers are all sold out, car lots are selling out. Yup, barely hanging on.

Up 33 Down 6

Juniper Jackson on Apr 7, 2021 at 10:37 pm

It's not just homeowners that are affected by these yearly tax hikes. Generally speaking, something happens in the brain of people who join the political circus. They run for office saying, I care, I want to give back to my community. But as soon as they are elected, it becomes, 'hell with it, its not my money, lets do it'. The Liberal brain seems to be particularly focused on today, without any plan for what those decisions mean tomorrow. Spend 30 million today, uh huh. Who is going to pay it tomorrow? The tax paying businesses, the homeowners, and the renters. The renters are already in the sock it to me mode from landlords. And, I don't blame the landlords. Go for what the traffic will bear. The trailer parks raise their pad rents 20 to 30 dollars a month every single year. Taxes, water, utilities go up, so does rent. But, that person paying rent, or pad fee's? Their paycheck is not going up 20 - 30 dollars a month. Every month, people are falling a little bit behind, until they are a lot behind and remortgaging their house, or renting a room instead of someplace with privacy, or moving in with mom and dad again, or 2 or 3 families moving in together.
SO.... if you have 20 million bucks to throw away on a new building, new furniture, landscaping, more staff parking.. why don't you make the dump free so folks will stop dumping their fridges, stoves, tires and electronics over the side of roads. Why don't you take a pay cut? like many of the rest of us. Or stay home with no pay? Why don't you use a few dollars to give every single resident a tree to plant, if you're so worried about the environment? There are a lot of things that could be done to enrich the lives of your residents even a tiny bit. Building a nice new building to plunk your ***es in, is not one of them. Not doing anything would be a bonus for us.

Up 30 Down 2

Davis on Apr 7, 2021 at 9:46 pm

Better plan on it costing about double what they think it will cost currently, that is if they plan on managing this construction project like they did their new operations building! (Rumour has it that the new operations building had over 1,000 change orders!!)

Up 25 Down 6

Wilf Carter on Apr 7, 2021 at 9:04 pm

The project on the table new operations building, reno's to City Hall, remove the old building, at total estimated cost of $53.5 million. Engineers at the time stated it was more like $90 million. Now it is over $120 million to complete the work.

Up 39 Down 4

Lost In the Yukon on Apr 7, 2021 at 7:33 pm

WTF ... I thought the castle on the hill built by King Dan was to house City Hall ... to the tune of $60,000,000 ... where TF does the money come from? Oh, let’s raise everyone’s property tax. This should be stopped and become an election issue for the fall. A town smaller than most places in the rest of Canada and King Dan and his minions have no problem building ego driven structures at the expense of tax payers.

Up 39 Down 2

martin on Apr 7, 2021 at 5:42 pm

Except for a couple of councilors, this City Council is out of control. Can't wait until municipal elections are called. By the signs in the downtown riding, the NDP looks like she'll win there. Now I hope Mayor Danny loses in October in the whole of Whitehorse. Enough!

Up 34 Down 4

Matthew on Apr 7, 2021 at 5:20 pm

Seems about right.. gov gets the best, citizens get what's left.. which is usually EFF all except higher taxes to pay for their lavish upgrades..

Up 25 Down 6

bonanzajoe on Apr 7, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Larry the cheque cutter has a lot of money. And this is a good election gimmick for the upcoming Federal spring election. I'm sure his boss JT would approve.

Up 20 Down 0

Heather on Apr 7, 2021 at 4:49 pm

Get that wizard from transit a while back to generate some favorable reports. Then everything will look all right.

Up 99 Down 2

Peter on Apr 7, 2021 at 4:21 pm

The city should stop building for now and let the taxpayers keep some money in their pocket so they have some disposable income. The Canada Game Canter in 2020 was 5 million in the hole and probably more this year. Then there is the hidden cost of the old Municipal Building on 4 th ave .
What is hidden in cost to deal with the asbestos and underground contaminations that
City taxpayer will have to shell out more money in taxes.

Up 91 Down 6

Duck on Apr 7, 2021 at 3:21 pm

Shelve the whole project. We can't afford it, people are barely surviving right now it is not the time to spend.

Up 63 Down 17

JSM on Apr 7, 2021 at 3:21 pm

Another lieberal pipe dream. Throwing money at problems that do not exist. Brilliant.

Up 36 Down 2

stephen on Apr 7, 2021 at 3:13 pm

A few things I find interesting.

So if it's cheaper to build an extra 1,500 sq now compared to adding it in 5 years, why would you not? In North America projects these days look out 5 to 10 years when you have politicians involved or corporations with executives only thinking out as far as when they get their pension. No one thinks out 20 + years. That is very short sited.

Second if you say the cost is $24.55m add in about 15% contingency to cover extra costs. It makes me laugh. Governments at all levels don't take this into account but say they do, then you see them going over budget. Surprise, surprise.

Up 78 Down 2

Kendra on Apr 7, 2021 at 3:08 pm

Sure. Why not? I mean, if we're going to spend, spend, spend only to eventually raise more taxes for the public. Let's go large. I mean...it's the Yukon. Larger then Life! Right?? Not that affordable housing, groceries, utilities and Northwestel aren't expensive enough already for the average family. Let's now spend more money during the COVID year. When is the municipal election again?

Up 62 Down 4

SH on Apr 7, 2021 at 2:57 pm

Glad to see the City Council using good judgement in this scenario. Delaying the project is the financially responsible approach.

Up 84 Down 1

Anie on Apr 7, 2021 at 2:49 pm

A minor issue, in the whole scheme of things, but the new location of the cenotaph appears to be where that beautiful old mayday tree currently lives. It brings much joy to Whitehorse residents by coming back in glorious bloom every spring, no matter how bad the winter, and it seems to me there is some history attached. I hope someone on council tries to save it.

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