The City of Whitehorse has unveiled a capital budget for 2023 worth at least $15.6 million.
Added to that could be a further $42.5 million, should external funding be approved, bringing the total up to more than $58 million.
The city released the budget at its Nov. 14 meeting with council passing first reading, prompting a public input session scheduled for Nov. 28 ahead of the final two readings Dec. 12.
Along with outlining planned capital spending for 2023, the document also sets out provisional budgets for each year between 2024 and 2026.
For each of those years, the city would spend $17.6 million in 2024, $11.5 million in 2025 and $10.3 million in 2026 from its own reserves. Further proposed spending from external sources, if approved, would see another $36.9 million for 2024, $24.1 million for 2025 and $26.5 million for 2026.
As Mayor Laura Cabott stated in her budget speech, the city’s focus is on maintaining and replacing city infrastructure while also improving city services, all while dealing with the current market conditions having an impact throughout the country.
“Our plans and projects have already been heavily impacted by the rising costs of materials and significant labour shortages across many sectors of the economy,” she said, going on to highlight the impact of capacity constraints, staff shortages, in some cases no response to city procurements and dealing with emergencies like the landslides along the city’s escarpment.
“As we move forward, we need to consider these factors in how we plan a number of important projects in the coming years,” she said.
One of the larger projects outlined would see the expansion of the city’s operations building off of Range Road to house more equipment as well as accommodate staff who have since moved from the decommissioned Municipal Services Building on Fourth Avenue.
A number of staff from the building were anticipated to move into a new city hall, but that project was cancelled earlier this year due to high costs.
In an interview after the Nov. 14 council meeting, Cabott said the city is still looking at work that will be needed on city hall with a decision anticipated in the near future.
Cabott pointed out the operations building was designed for future growth with room to accommodate an expansion.
A total of $900,000 is identified for the expansion in 2024 with a further $5.4 million in 2026.
The Canada Games Centre would also see an upgraded aquatic centre as the budget proposes to spend $500,000 over the four year spending plan on acoustics, ventilation, work on the deck, change rooms and pools. Upgrades to the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre and Takhini Arena are also outlined through external funding.
While the city looks at work to upgrade and maintain buildings, it will also be looking at incorporating Southern Tutchone names to its buildings with $50,000 identified for 2023.
“Next year, we will develop a policy with guidance from local First Nations to ensure we are creating a policy that is reflective of the true partnership we share,” Cabott said.
With more snowfall in the city in recent years, the city is also proposing to spend close to $4 million in 2023 on new equipment to deal with snow clearing that would see the city purchase two graders with snow wings, two heavy duty trucks with underbody plows and two loaders.
Plans are also in the works to expand the snow dump site in Kulan with $200,000 identified for design and permitting in 2023. If that goes ahead, Cabott pointed out, it would mean snow from the north end of town could be hauled there rather than coming all the way down to the Robert Service Way snow dump.
“These investments will help support clearing operations across the transportation network, but especially on active transportation trails where we continue to see more users year over year,” she said in her budget speech.
The mayor went on to highlight transportation as another focus in the city’s budget, with $350,000 outlined in 2023 for design of the Two Mile Hill and Range Road intersection to make active transportation and driving safer and easier for all.
Further planning for traffic calming and active transportation projects in other parts of the city are also planned, as are potential expansion to other routes.
Among them would be studies looking at possibilities for a second bridge in and out of Riverdale and improvements for the Quartz Road/Mountain View Drive route in and out of Whistle Bend and Porter Creek.
The city is also proposing to contract out city maintenance work, given the staffing challenges.
As Cabott explained: “The city’s storm collection system takes in rain, melted snow, and surface runoff. If we can’t regularly maintain this system, build-up can occur and may cause backups and flooding. Departmental capacity has seen this work delayed so we are proposing to spend $250,000 to contract this maintenance work.”
A maintenance contract on the city’s fire hydrants is proposed at a cost of $220,000.
Meanwhile, looking to the future of Whitehorse, Cabott highlighted the importance of a “thoughtfully planned community that meets and exceeds the needs of residents, businesses and visitors.”
A zoning bylaw rewrite is proposed for after the city adopts its new Official Community Plan, with the zoning bylaw rewrite budgeted at $275,000 in 2023.
“An updated zoning bylaw will allow us to implement new ideas and resolve current issues with development regulations to ensure they meet the needs of city residents and businesses,” Cabott said.
A further $50,000 is also identified to look at how the city can deal with underutilized lots around town.
“These lots, scattered in various neighbourhoods, mark an exciting opportunity to bring additional housing, commercial and industrial space to market,” she said.
A climate strategy is also proposed to deal with mitigation and adaptation.
Summing up, Cabott said the budget advances a number of projects for the city and will make significant improvements to city infrastructure.
“Many of these investments are not flashy, but these are key areas of responsibility for the city and it is council’s job to ensure we are delivering on our core businesses,” she said.
“As we look beyond 2023, we know that there are still many exciting opportunities in the future: important infrastructure work in Hillcrest, a new city hall and a transit hub are some of the many things that could benefit residents and we continue to plan for those initiatives.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org