A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its Feb. 21 meeting.
Gravel shortage concerns highlighted
Whitehorse city council members were warned about a possible gravel shortage that could impact the upcoming construction season.
Norcope Enterprises president Doug Gonder addressed council as a delegate at its Feb. 21 meeting, highlighting the impacts of the potential shortage.
Gonder noted there hasn’t been a new gravel source in place since 2010 and while his company had proposed a site off the Alaska Highway for quarrying, it was ultimately turned down by council in 2018 following significant public input.
Gonder said he’s watched four council terms come and go without any new quarry options established, a situation that will leave contractors like Norcope heading further away from the city to get gravel, a situation that could result in increased costs. It makes no sense, he said, to haul gravel from the Carcross Cutoff area to Whistle Bend for work there when there are potential sources closer by.
“We need to plan 10 years ahead,” he said.
During council discussion later in the meeting, interim city manager Jeff O’Farrell confirmed a meeting between council and administration on the topic is scheduled for April 28.
Director of development services Mike Gau also noted that the city’s Official Community Plan has identified land with a supply for up to 20 years. The land in the north end of Whitehorse at Steven’s Quarry though is owned by the Yukon government and it will be up to the territory to open it up for quarrying, Gau said.
Budget adoption pending
The City of Whitehorse’s proposed 2022 operating budget of $93.4 million could be approved within the next week.
Svetlana Erickson, the city’s manager of financial services, brought forward a public hearing report on the budget at Whitehorse city council’s Feb. 21 meeting, recommending council move forward with the final two readings of the bylaw governing the spending plan.
In the report, Erickson noted concerns brought up around winter road clearing, active transportation and transit, noting the city is working to meet the demands of the city’s transportation network.
“The proposed budget includes new ongoing funding of $240,000 towards winter road maintenance as well as a further ongoing investment in additional staff for year-round operations totaling over $1.5 million over the three year budget,” she said, also citing plans for transit improvements (which will include the addition of Sunday bus service) and funding for active transportation improvements.
A number of other comments that came in – improvements at the Grey Mountain School intersection at Lewes Boulevard and Alsek Drive, changes to the senior utility grant and property tax deferral program among others – will be passed on to the appropriate departments for future consideration.
Council will vote on second and third reading of the bylaw as well as the taxes, fees and charges associated with it on Feb. 28.
A report detailing Whitehorse city council members’ attendance, expenses, travel and voting records from their first two months in office came forward at council’s Feb. 21 meeting.
The summary report is done on an annual basis, though in this case with the municipal election in October, and members taking office on Nov. 1, the details are provided from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 for the 2021 year.
It shows each member attended all meetings over the two month period with no travel expenses claimed due to the pandemic.
Each councillor claimed expenses for workshops and training (typically held at the beginning of a term so council members can learn about processes and their roles) with two councillors also claiming child care expenses.
Expenses are not claimed by Mayor Laura Cabott as the position of mayor is full-time.
Of the expenses, Coun. Ted Laking had the highest claims at $1,247.60, including $1,050 for workshops and training, and $197.60 for child care. Coun. Kirk Cameron came in with the lowest expenses at $600 for workshops and training.
Others saw Coun. Mellisa Murray claim $1,095.60, including $1,050 for workshops and training, and $45.60 for child care expenses; Coun. Michelle Friesen and Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu each claim $1,050 for workshops and training; and Coun. Dan Boyd claim $900 for workshops and training.
The record of voting shows that there was just one issue council wasn’t unanimous on between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 with a 4-3 vote to reinstate Into The Wild’s business license with conditions. Councillors Boyd, Curteanu and Friesen voted against it.
Council will vote whether to accept the report on Feb. 28.
City management to look at COVID-19 impacts on rec groups
City of Whitehorse staff will be looking at whether there are any territorial funding programs to assist organizations impacted by the latest round of public health measures that were in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The move comes after the issue of the impact on the Whitehorse Curling Club was brought up at Whitehorse city council’s Feb. 21 meeting.
While Coun. Kirk Cameron noted a letter to the city from the curling club, highlighting the financial impacts the public health measures have had on the club and suggesting the city look at ways it can provide support, Coun. Ted Laking pointed out he had also flagged the issue about a month ago.
The curling club leases its space inside the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre from the city. Both Cameron and Laking said the club plays an important role in the community and argued in favour of exploring relief options for the club, with Cameron also pointing out the importance of the facility for the 2027 Canada Winter Games the city and territory are bidding to host.
Other councillors also acknowledged the club as an important part of the recreational landscape in Whitehorse, but pointed out other groups have also likely been impacted by the latest public health measures, which effectively halted indoor recreational activities for a number of weeks.
“Everyone has been impacted by COVID,” Mayor Laura Cabott said, adding other groups could also come to the city asking for similar support.
She questioned whether the city has ever provided such a program, with interim city manager stating that, to his knowledge, such a program would be a first for the city.
Council members suggested more information will be needed with O’Farrell stating staff could gather more details from the curling club as well as the Yukon government on whether it plans to offer any programs for those impacted. He said once staff have that information, they will report back to council.
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