The City of Whitehorse is proposing to spend more than $53 million on capital projects in 2022.
At Whitehorse city council’s Nov. 29 meeting, members passed first reading of the bylaw for the 2022 capital budget along with provisional capital spending plans each of the following years to 2025.
Under the plan for 2022, the city would spend $9.8 million from its reserves and, pending approval, another $43.5 million from federal and territorial funds.
In the following three years, the city is anticipating capital spending from reserves of $8.7 million in 2023, $5.1 million in 2024, and $4.9 million in 2025. That would be complemented by an additional $36.1 million in 2023, $31 million in 2024 and $19.5 million in 2025 from external sources should funding be approved.
“We take pride in our status as the wilderness city and want to continue living in a community with a healthy, sustainable environment,” Mayor Laura Cabott said in her first budget address as the city’s mayor after being elected to the position in October.
Much of the focus for 2022 will be on the renovation and building of a new city hall at Second Avenue and Steele Street with the plans to also include a new transit hub with public washrooms, a new site for the city cenotaph on Steele Street and energy upgrades for the building.
The groundbreaking is scheduled for next year, with the budget outlining $4.2 million coming from city reserves. The entire project is budgeted at $24.7 million with the Yukon government funding $4 million and the federal government more than $12 million for the energy retrofits and transit hub. A large portion of the project cost was already approved in the 2021 budget.
“This project is a long time coming, and has been in the works for the better part of a decade,” Cabott said.
The budget also plans to improve the city’s recreational facilities, should external funding be approved.
The city would spend $8.5 million on an upgrade to the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre in 2022, while Takhini Arena would see a $4 million upgrade and $175,000 for furnaces in 2023.
Meanwhile at the Canada Games Centre, a number of projects are outlined including $40,000 for energy upgrades and $500,000 for the pool and change rooms in 2022; $500,000 in 2023 followed by $4.5 million in 2024 for an upgrade to the building; and $1.7 million in 2024 for a ventilation upgrade.
“These are popular facilities used by thousands of people every day, not only for sport and recreation, but for public and private meetings, gatherings, conventions and training opportunities,” Cabott said.
In an interview following the council meeting, Cabott acknowledged there may be some impacts to those who use the facilities while work is underway, but she also said the city would work to manage the impacts so they are minimal.
She stressed the importance of getting the work done.
“We take great pride in these facilities,” she said. “(The Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre) really needs some attention to bring it up to 2022 levels.”
In her speech, the mayor also addressed sustainability, transportation, technology, housing and neighbourhoods, highlighting plans for an emissions inventory, a cycling connection to be built between Two Mile Hill and the Riverfront Trail, a permanent bus lane along Lewes Boulevard, parking and transit payment apps, continued planning work to accommodate city growth as well as improvements to current neighbourhoods and more.
“This proposed budget advances key projects that continue to make the City of Whitehorse a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Cabott said. “It makes significant investments in our city’s aging infrastructure and addresses our desire to reduce our carbon footprint. These projects will continue to contribute to the territory’s economic and job growth.”
Cabott acknowledged that with the city election having been just a little more than a month ago, the proposed budget largely reflects the priorities of the previous council.
Work to develop the budget actually begins in May with much of the spending plan already drafted by the time a new council takes office in an election year.
There was no discussion among council ahead of first reading, which is usually adopted to get the document to the public input stage. Then at second reading, it’s discussed in greater detail. At that point, council members may propose amendments or may vote against it.
“I expect that there will be some debate and discussion on the budget coming up on second and third reading, which is good,” Cabott said.
The public input session for the 2022 capital budget will be held at council’s Dec. 13 meeting.
Full capital budget details are available at whitehorse.ca/budget with residents invited to submit comments for the public input session at email@example.com. Due to COVID-19, no in-person presentations can be made at the input session, though residents can directly address council by calling in to the meeting.
Residents can contact the city clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 687-1491 by 12 p.m. Dec. 13 to register to speak by phone at the meeting.
A report on the input will come forward Jan. 10 with council expected to vote on the final two readings at its Jan. 17 session.
The proposed operating budget for 2022, which details property tax rates and any changes to city fees and charges, will also come forward in the new year.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com