Gas tax cash funds wastewater projects, transit building

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis announced $2.8 million from the federal gas tax fund to pay for three wastewater projects in Whitehorse April 26.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis announced $2.8 million from the federal gas tax fund to pay for three wastewater projects in Whitehorse April 26.

Of the money allotted, $2.4 million will go to upgrades to the 40-year-old Marwell lift station, which deals with the city’s wastewater. Curtis said the upgrades to the station are necessary.

“Like me, (the lift station) is really showing signs of its age,” he joked.

Another $330,000 will cover work on the Hidden Valley storm pond that will provide a new outfall pipe and trench so that water will stop overflowing onto neighbouring properties. The remaining $100,000 went to upgrades to the storm sewers on Burns Road.

The first phase of the Marwell lift project and the Burns Road storm sewer project have already gone to tender, said Taylor Eshpeter, an assistant engineer with the city. The second phase of the lift project will go to tender shortly and the Hidden Valley storm pond project will go to tender after permits for it are approved.

All projects are expected to be completed before the end of 2017, he said, although Hidden Valley may run into 2018.

Curtis said the gas tax funding allows Whitehorse to make necessary repairs and upgrades to its aging infrastructure system.

“I wouldn’t want to be the mayor of Whitehorse if we didn’t have the federal gas tax,” Curtis said.

This announcement comes days after the city administration’s recommendation to allot another $8.6 million from the gas tax fund to pay for the proposed transit expansion add-on to the new operations building. Council will vote May 8 on whether that money will be added to the budget for the project.

The $55-million project has already been voted to go to tender, pending the approval of the gas tax money.

Curtis said April 24 that the operations building project will not be broken down into smaller contracts, but will be sourced as one large contract.

Coun. Dan Boyd said this type of tender might make it difficult for local contractors to bid on the project.

This practice might, “exclude our larger local contractors to bid on the project because they’re not able to secure enough bonding,“ he said.

Jeff Sloychuk, spokesperson for the Yukon carpenters union, said he didn’t feel that keeping the contract in one piece and having large contractors was “necessarily a bad thing,” as long as the city made sure the companies it brings in employ local workers.

Sloychuk also said he doesn’t believe “race to the bottom” tendering, in which the lowest bid is awarded the contract, necessarily gave the best value to the city.

“What’s the point in saving a few million dollars if we are just bringing in workers from Kelowna?” he said.

Sloychuk would like to see the value to the local businesses and economy added to contract awarding considerations. This is something the city has the power to implement, he said.

Eshpeter said all the water infrastructure contracts announced April 27 will be tendered based on the lowest bid. It is not yet known how the operations building will be tendered. The agreements are still being drawn up.

“What really galls me is when we see companies with poor safety records, poor local procurement and poor histories of getting jobs done on time awarded contracts,” Sloychuk said.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

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