Mike Gau, director of development services, City of Whitehorse, works on his computer during a regular city council meeting on November 14, 2017. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

City of Whitehorse budgets $30M for infrastructure over four years

‘I think we’re concentrating on the most important things’

The City of Whitehorse’s proposed 2018-2021 capital budget has more than $30 million in approved city projects planned for the next four years, with the bulk of that money to be spent in 2018.

The budget calls for $10.8 million in spending in 2018, $7 million in 2019, and $8 million in 2020 and $4.2 million in 2021.

Projects that “reduce operations and maintenance costs rank high on the priority list,” Mayor Dan Curtis said.

A big chunk of that 2018 money will go to engineering services and repairs —$3.9 million — with $3.2 million slated for repairs to Alexander Street.

The proposed budget allocates $6 million for business and technology services, $2.2 million of that is allotted over four years for software license renewal fees. This makes up the second largest yearly expense in that section of the budget, after the $2.6 million set aside for the city’s computer infrastructure.

The fire department will get $1.7 million for equipment upkeep and replacement, with the majority of that —$1.2 million — to be spent in 2018, including $900,000 to replace a rescue truck.

There’s also $11.9 million in building and fleet maintenance over four years, with the lion’s share of that —$4.6 million — scheduled to be spent in 2019. These expenses include things like replacing aging equipment, such as the $345,000 set aside to replace a heavy loader in 2018 and budgeted over four years $420,000 for major equipment repairs.

That money includes $2.2 million set aside for the new Fire Hall No. 1 building in 2019, with $600,000 set aside in the same year to demolish the old one.

Mike Gau, director of development services, said that the current Fire Hall No. 1 is simply out of date and that the city needs a newer, larger one. The city will be building the new fire hall near the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, converting a warehouse it already owns there into the new facility.

Repurposing this building allows for good “dollar value” for the city, Gau said, and keeps the fire hall downtown, so that it can quickly serve the immediate area and Riverdale.

Coun. Betty Irwin said she “is very pleased,” with the budget.

“I think we’re concentrating on the most important things,” she said.

Building a new fire hall is “a good way to go,” said Irwin, because the city has simply “outgrown” the old one.

She is also pleased with the money for downtown road and sewage repairs, and safety initiatives, such a $33,000 to install left-turn traffic signals at Alaska Highway and Robert Service Way.

“It’s quite overdue,” she said. “That (spot) is really brutal for traffic…. It can be really dangerous.”

“There’s other work we’d love to do, but you’re always constrained by the money you have.”

The city has budgeted $54.6 million in projects it will do if it can get external funding, such as gas tax money. This includes $3.2 million for further downtown reconstruction, $5 million for city hall renovations and energy upgrades, $2.2 million for replacement buses and $1 million to repair existing buses.

The city is also looking for $10.2 million from outside sources to build a new services building, which will likely be an add-on to city hall, built on the footprint of the current Fire Hall No. 1 after it gets torn down.

Until the budget is approved, it won’t be possible to know which projects can go ahead. In some cases, he said, the money hasn’t been applied for yet and won’t be unless the item is approved in the proposed budget.

The proposed budget won’t mean tax increases, Gau said. Money will either come from outside sources or the city’s own capital reserves. Tax increases are most often associated with operations budgets, which the city will be unveiling in sometime in December, he said.

The city will also spend $55 million on getting the new operations building up and running, with $23 million of that coming from the federal gas tax fund. That money was allocated in last year’s budget and has already been approved, Curtis said.

That project is the city’s main priority, he said.

“The relocation and consolidation of nine downtown buildings (into the operations building) will help us become more efficient,” he said.

Curtis has said that a lot of the infrastructure funding has come from federal grants, without which some projects would be impossible.

“It would be impossible for the city to pay for these things on its own,” said Gau. “We just don’t have the tax base.”

The proposed budget was unveiled at the Nov. 14 regular council meeting, where it passed first reading.

A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 27, with a final vote set for Dec. 11.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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