wheres the fire

The city is rushing ahead with a new stand-alone fire hall. Why? City officials say they want to save money.

The city is rushing ahead with a new stand-alone fire hall.


City officials say they want to save money. Further delay will just increase construction costs, they say.

But the city’s rush to save a dime may cost citizens a buck, or two.

Here’s why.

The territory must build a new ambulance base for Whitehorse.

Currently, ambulance crews are crammed into a facility that is far too small for their needs. More than 11 people work out of a building designed for a three-person crew and administrative staffer.

And so a joint fire/ambulance base was proposed. It was to be cost-shared between the Yukon government and the city.

The two governments have been discussing the joint facility for a couple of years.

It was to resemble a dumbbell — ambulance staff at one end, firefighters at the other. In the middle would be the shared facilities.

But sometime before Christmas, communication between the two governments collapsed.

Today, mayor Bev Buckway insists talks are ongoing.

But that’s hard to believe, especially given the city’s decision to proceed without the Yukon government.

It’s easier to believe councillor Doug Graham.

He said the territory was handed a drop-dead date of December 31. That ultimatum was ignored, so the city decided to go it alone.

The brinksmanship makes for nice political drama, but poor public policy.

A joint facility makes sense.

The two governments would share the capital cost, easing the burden for city and territorial citizens.

Once built, they would share the heat, hydro and telephone bills.

There would be a single dispatch room. One kitchen. One weight room. One janitorial crew.

It makes long-term financial sense.

Instead, the city decided to build its own base, which guarantees construction of two separate facilities.

It’s a strange decision for a city that wants to save money. It will cost taxpayers a lot more to build than a single joint-use base.

And it certainly won’t be cheaper to operate two of them.

The city announced its plans on January 31.

The approved project budget was $5 million. The city has squirreled away $1 million in its reserve fund for the project.

So, when it was approved the city had to borrow $4 million to pay for the fire hall.

Today, less than two months later, the price has increased to $6 million.

And so, the city must now borrow $5 million.

How much will it cost in another two months?

And, in addition to the rising interest payments, citizens are on the hook for the full operation and maintenance costs.

A joint facility would clearly be more efficient and cheaper to run.

And the longer it takes to build, the more it will cost.

And so it’s time the city and territory stopped burning money.

They should immediately resume talks to build a joint fire hall/ambulance base at the top of Two Mile Hill. (RM)

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