The Ross River school is seen in 2008. The Yukon government will be going back to the drawing board after the only bid to come in for a cooling permafrost project at the school was “grossly over budget.” (Jeremy Warren/Yukon News file)

Cooling work at Ross River school in limbo

Yukon Party MLA says other over budget contacts have been pushed through

It appears the Yukon government will be going back to the drawing board following the submission of a too-expensive bid for cooling permafrost under the school in Ross River.

The sole bid came in “grossly over budget,” Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn told reporters after question period on April 23.

“The work that came in, which was $1.6 million, was really estimated about $600,000. That’s what I’m talking about.”

The Yukon Department of Education budget lists the estimated cost of remediation work as $1.4 million.

Mostyn said the crawlspace-cooling project, submitted by British Columbia-based Wildstone Construction, is one component of the work.

The structure needs to be shored up in other ways. These include installing bracing and reinforcing an exterior wall, said department spokesperson Oshea Jephson. A separate tender will go out for this work. Jephson said it hasn’t been published yet.

The tender for the cooling project closed on March 25.

“It’s too much money,” Mostyn said, “so we’re gonna go back to the community, talk to them to see what, how to go forward. My key priority is that the school remains safe for staff and students.”

Asked if there are any safety concerns now that there could be a probable delay, Mostyn said, “We’re gonna make sure that’s not the case. We’re monitoring the school. We’ve got engineers going up on a regular basis. Those engineering reports are being made available to you.”

Mostyn said he’ll be in Ross River in early May to speak with the community about the school’s future.

The Yukon Party’s Scott Kent grilled Mostyn during question period, saying that some over budget contracts — Housing First plans, for instance, in downtown Whitehorse — are given the green light while others aren’t.

He said the contract for the Housing First project is 44 per cent over budget.

“Why, if his government doesn’t award contracts that are grossly over budget, (did they award) this contract?” Kent said.

In response, Mostyn said that costs associated with operations and maintenance is growing “unsustainably.”

“We knew that $1.50 was going out for every $1.00 collected,” he said. “We cannot sustain that, so we are doing things differently.”

Speaking with reporters, Mostyn said the Yukon Party is “cherry-picking contracts and saying, ‘This one’s over and why.’ We’re assessing every project on its own merits.”

Mostyn has said several times the school remains safe this sitting.

“It is. I’ve got nothing to hide on this thing. The goal is to make sure the school is monitored and safe.

“Let’s face it, there are two ways to go with this school: we rebuild it, or we keep in place and keep maintaining it. At $1.6 million for projects, it’s not worth it to maintain it, so we’re gonna have to have that conversation.”

If this trajectory continues, the cost of upkeep on the school will be really high, he said, “and at the point it doesn’t make any sense to continue down this road.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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