It’s smart to invest in energy efficient city buildings

The City of Whitehorse recently passed the 2015 capital budget and approved funding for a building consolidation project. 


by Dan Curtis

The City of Whitehorse recently passed the 2015 capital budget and approved funding for a building consolidation project. This is an important step towards a project that will make municipal services more efficient and reduce the cost to operate our buildings. We will do this by replacing old infrastructure with energy-efficient buildings that are well designed for their intended purpose and use.

This project will construct a new services building next to city hall. City services like getting a building permit or a business licence will be offered at this central location. Most city operations like road maintenance will move to a new operations building, near the public safety building, at Range Road and Two Mile Hill. This move will reduce heavy equipment traffic downtown, and free up prime real estate for development.

The total construction cost of the new buildings is $55 million. This is the cost estimate from the business case and functionality program report. It is a conservative estimate that was prepared by a team of independent experts. The city is planning to pay for this project using $13 million from federal gas tax funding, $13 million from the city’s capital reserves, and $29 million in low-interest financing.

Borrowing costs are not included in this total, but they are accounted for as annual costs, similar to a mortgage on a house. We have been living on reduced capital expenditures for two years, building up reserves, and can continue to do this to cover ongoing yearly financing costs. This is why no new tax increases are needed as a result of this project. Once the buildings are constructed, the ongoing energy and lease costs will be reduced by $500,000 per year, and will be used to lower the financing costs.

The approved capital budget also sets aside an additional $1.4 million for art and furnishings for the newly constructed buildings. The art budget has been prepared according to a council policy that recognizes the value of placing local art in public buildings.

This is a large and complex project, and some details still have to be confirmed. For example, the cost to demolish the Municipal Services Building and remediate the site is not included in the project cost estimate. Nor is the potential revenue from the sale of this site. We have reviewed ultimate demolition costs and the preliminary site remediation costs and we anticipate that revenue from land sales will cover these costs.

The downtown fire hall is in a 60-year-old building that needs to be replaced. Plans for this building have been waiting on the fire services strategic plan, which is almost complete. That plan confirms the need for a downtown fire hall for initial response. Options for incorporating the fire hall into the services building will be reviewed by council as part of the design process.

The city is replacing infrastructure that is well past its useful life, and we are doing this in a way that is affordable and cost-effective. It would be much more expensive if we decided to not proceed with this project. According to the business case and functionality program report, keeping the old buildings will cost 2.77 times the replacement cost. It is not responsible to continue with the status quo.

The city is investing in the building consolidation project because it is our top infrastructure priority. This is a financially responsible choice we are making for our community. This project will also create significant economic opportunities for local businesses, tradespeople, contractors and suppliers.

We have shared information with citizens and sought feedback as this project was developed. Last year, the city consulted with citizens for the business case and functionality program. Earlier this year, we presented information to the city’s advisory finance committee and the chambers of commerce, and invited their feedback as part of the budget process.

Each year, the city asks citizens what they would like to see in the budgets before they are tabled. That consultation was launched in October. We tried a new survey tool this year called citizen budget. This tool is meant for operating budget expenses, as it gives citizens a chance to see how budget decisions affect tax and utility rates.

Once council decided to bring this project forward as part of the 2015 capital budget, the information was finalized for the budget package and we set up a new page on the city’s website. The project details were tabled with the budget, posted on the website and widely advertised. Given the significance of this project, a public open house was held in November, in addition to the usual public input opportunities for the budget process.

As we move ahead with the building consolidation project, the city will continue to update information on our website at and we will share regular updates with the community, as suggested by the chambers of commerce at the capital budget public input night. We will keep adding to the information on our website and we will provide updates in the media.

Dan Curtis is the mayor of Whitehorse.

Just Posted

Sarah Walz leads a softball training session in Dawson City. Photo submitted by Sport Yukon.
Girls and women are underserved in sport: Sport Yukon

Sport Yukon held a virtual event to celebrate and discuss girls and women in sport

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bagged meter fees could be discounted for patios

Council passes first reading at special meeting

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell is among a number of sites that are expected to make more commercial/industrial land available in the coming years. (Submitted)
Council hears update on commercial land

Number of developments expected to make land available in near future

keith halliday
Yukonomist: Have I got an opportunity for you!

Are you tired of the same-old, same-old at work? Would you like to be a captain of industry, surveying your domain from your helicopter and enjoying steak dinners with influential government officials at the high-profile Roundup mining conference?

Clouds pass by the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Friday, June 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon government, B.C. company want Supreme Court of Canada appeal of Wolverine Mine case

Government concerned with recouping cleanup costs, creditor wants review of receiver’s actions.

The Village of Carmacks has received federal funding for an updated asset management plan. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Federal funding coming to Carmacks

The program is aimed at helping municipalities improve planning and decision-making around infrastructure

Paddlers start their 715 kilometre paddling journey from Rotary Park in Whitehorse on June 26, 2019. The 2021 Yukon River Quest will have a different look. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
The 22nd annual Yukon River Quest moves closer to start date

Although the race will be modified in 2021, a field of 48 teams are prepared to take the 715 kilometre journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 7 meeting

Letters to the editor.
This week’s mailbox: the impact of residential schools, Whitehorse Connects, wildfires

Dear Editor; Anguish – extreme pain, distress or anxiety. Justice – the… Continue reading

PROOF CEO Ben Sanders is seen with the PROOF team in Whitehorse. (Submitted)
Proof and Yukon Soaps listed as semifinalists for national award

The two companies were shortlisted from more than 400 nominated

The RCMP Critical Incident Program will be training in Watson Lake from June 14-16. Mike Thomas/Yukon News
RCMP will conduct three days of training in Watson Lake

Lakeview Apartment in Watson Lake will be used for RCMP training

John Tonin/Yukon News Squash players duke it out during Yukon Open tournament action at Better Bodies on June 5.
Four division titles earned at squash Yukon Open

The territory’s squash talent was on full display at the 2021 Yukon Open

Most Read