Contractor faulted for trolley service woes

The city has asked a contractor working on First Avenue reconstruction to pay for unnecessarily cutting off waterfront trolley service.

The city has asked a contractor working on First Avenue reconstruction to pay for unnecessarily cutting off waterfront trolley service.

Work by Norcope Enterprises undercut the trolley’s tracks, preventing it from running North of Strickland Street.

The city had promised the track would be blocked for only “a matter of days.”

But seven weeks went by before full service could resume, according to the Miles Canyon Historic Railway Society, which manages the trolley for the Yukon government.

While service from Rotary Peace Park to Spook Creek finally got under way on July 12th, lost revenue totals nearly $5,000, wrote the society’s director Dave Layzelle in a letter to the city dated July 18th.

The society cut fares from $2 to $1, because only half the ride was available.

And that lost revenue was not accounted for in the society’s budget.

“We have limited resources and find it extremely difficult to cope with such losses,” wrote Layzelle.

At Monday’s council meeting, the city discussed the authorization of a $2,000 public relations grant to the society to offset the lost revenue.

But city engineering manager Wayne Tuck said Norcope would be asked to foot the bill.

“We’re in negotiation with the contractor as to when the line should have been opened,” he told council.

The city has discussed the matter with its engineering consultants, Quest Engineering Group Inc., project co-ordinator Janet Ryan said Wednesday.

It hasn’t yet been decided how much Norcope should pay, she said.

“Part of the timeline was due to construction and part of it wasn’t and so our consultant is going to look at that.

“So the issue has to be what kind of communication was going on between the contractor and the trolley association.”

But Norcope was fully aware of when it was supposed to get the trolley back on track, said Quest Engineering partner Rick Savage.

“We have weekly project meetings on the site and it was discussed every meeting pretty much,” he said.

“We felt that the delays were primarily caused by the contractor’s co-ordination of the work.

“There were some excavations that were left open that didn’t necessarily have to be for any particular reason and as a result of that the trolley couldn’t operate.

“The contractor may see it differently, but that’s our perspective at the moment.”

Norcope manager Doug Gaunders refused to comment from the site Wednesday.

The railway society would prefer the city handle the negotiations, said the trolley’s director of operations Jim O’Neal on Wednesday.

But if these negotiations come up short, the society might deal with Norcope directly.

“It may be our action to pursue it further,” said O’Neal.

“We could take another approach to see what we can get out of the contractor.”

Norcope has been laying the underground work for a future commercial-residential complex along the river since early May.

The company was awarded both the deep underground and shallow utility work contracts by the city. These include the installation of water, sewage and electrical systems.

Skookum Asphalt Ltd. will begin the surface paving in the next few weeks.

While Norcope is a couple weeks behind schedule, construction is still slated to be completed by the end of the year, said Savage.

The trolley, which will run for another six weeks, is a popular attraction for both residents and tourists.

It has so far had a five-per-cent increase in use over the same period in 2005, according to city documents.

Council will make a decision on the matter at next Monday’s meeting.