Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)

City news, briefly

Welcoming back the public

The doors are open and the public is invited back to Whitehorse city council chambers.

On June 6, chairs for the public were put back in place in the council gallery, council members all sat at the council table and staff returned to desks stationed at either end of the council table, reflecting a return to the way meetings were held before COVID-19 measures were put in place.

Throughout the pandemic, the public has had little to no in-person access to council chambers. Depending on the COVID-19 restrictions in place, there were times some delegates had appeared before council in-person, having made arrangements ahead of time. For the most part though, delegates called in or had written submissions read into the record at the meeting, with meetings available for viewing by streaming on the city’s website and airing live on the community television channel (which had also been available prior to COVID-19).

While COVID-19 mandates have largely been lifted since March, access to council chambers has continued to be limited with distancing in place for staff and council members.

In a June 8 interview, Mayor Laura Cabott said she was pleased to open the doors to the public, though it initially seemed “a little strange” to return to the pre-pandemic seating plan that had council and staff sitting closer together.

Once the meeting got underway, she said, it seemed completely normal.

Cabott explained it took some time after the mandates were lifted to return to the former seating arrangement as the city had to get a technician in to deal with the changes to the microphone set up as well as a few audio issues that were happening.

While the public is welcome back to take in meetings and address council in-person, Cabott said delegates will also, for the time being, continue to have the option of phoning in or having their written submissions read into the record.

She noted council will likely eventually look at whether to continue with the options for public input that were established in light of the pandemic. Until then, they will stay in place.

“All those options are available,” she said.

While she prefers to see delegates in person, she’s also receptive to other presentation methods residents might be more comfortable with.

Grants considered

A total of 17 organizations could receive a combined $158,366 to help with property taxes and municipal charges.

At Whitehorse city council’s June 6 meeting, Svetlana Erickson, the city’s manager of financial services, brought forward a recommendation the annual municipal charges and community service grants be awarded to 17 groups.

The largest grant of $44,489 would go to the MacBride Museum Society, with the smallest grant of $100 going to the Valleyview Community Association.

Other proposed amounts would include $480 to the Downtown Urban Garden Society; $1,240 to the Learning Disabilities Association Yukon; $1,948 to the Hospice Yukon Society; $2,647 to Maryhouse; $4,725 to the Yukon Broomball Association; $5,164 to the Golden Age Society; $5,751 to the Whitehorse Rifle and Pistol Club; $6,291 to the Humane Society Yukon; $8,615 to the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society; $8,945 to the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle; $10,016 to the Whitehorse Legion Branch; $18,429 to the Guild Society; $13,791 to Kaushee’s Place Housing Society; and two grants to Softball Yukon with one being for $24,947 and the other specifically for the Robert Service Way softball diamonds for $741.

Council will vote on the proposed grants June 13.

Procurement pondered

The City of Whitehorse could soon begin looking for a contractor to design a new Selkirk Pump House multi-barrier treatment system for the city’s water supply.

A recommendation that Whitehorse city council authorize procurement to begin on the preliminary and engineering design of the project was brought forward at Whitehorse city council’s June 6 meeting.

The project would see the city’s water treatment move from a single barrier treatment method employing only chlorination to treat the water to a multi-barrier approach.

“The ongoing monitoring and testing results combined with the Drinking Water Regulations indicate that additional treatment barriers will be required to protect the integrity of the system over the long term,” Tracy Allen, the city’s director of operations, stated in a report to council. “A multi- barrier treatment system will also be able to treat groundwater and surface water (Schwatka Lake) under current regulations, providing critical redundancy for the city’s potable water system.”

The design work would allow the city to decide on the optimal treatment system and refine construction and operating cost estimates.

“The deterioration of the aquifer could continue over the following years due to climate change and/or over-exploitation,” Allen said. “The risk of not proceeding with the project could translate to the inability of the city to provide safe and quality drinking water to its population. Boiling water advisories could become prevalent.

“Trying to implement a rushed solution would be costlier and challenging than implementing a proactive solution.”

If council votes to go ahead with the procurement at its June 13 meeting, it’s anticipated the contract would be awarded in August with work on the design beginning in September and being finished in December 2024.

Rezoning proposed

A proposed zoning change would allow for quarrying on a 12.4 hectare piece of land on the Copper Haul Road at the northwest corner next to Mount Sima Road.

The proposal was brought forward to Whitehorse city council at its June 6 meeting with city planner Mathieu Marois noting the quarrying is proposed to happen in five year intervals to a maximum of 25 years in order to ensure future development of the site is not restricted.

“An updated final grading plan will be required for each extension to ensure a developable area is kept available for future use prior to closure of the quarry,” he said.

A total of 375,000 cubic metres of aggregate are estimated to be available in the quarry with approximately 15,000 cubic metres to be extracted annually.

A Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board evaluation was done and determined a quarry would not have significant adverse effects on environmental quality, but that there is likely to be negative effects on other land users, including those using the nearby Trans Canada Trail.

It was noted those impacts would be eliminated or reduced by having a 30 m buffer between the trail and quarry, though the quarry is planned to exceed that with a set back of 45 m from the trail.

Council will vote on first reading of the proposed rezoning June 13.

If first reading is passed, a public hearing would be held July 11 with a report coming forward at the Aug. 1 council meeting, followed by second and third reading Aug. 8.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Whitehorse city council