Cost of relevelling Ross River School pegged at $1.2 million

Engineers estimate it will cost another $1.2 million to repair the Ross River School only two years after the government spent nearly $2 million doing similar work.

Engineers estimate it will cost another $1.2 million to repair the Ross River School only two years after the government spent nearly $2 million doing similar work.

The school is safe to occupy but engineers recommend it be relevelled this summer, according to the latest structural report released by the Yukon government May 26.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn said he needs to gather more information before deciding whether to put more money into the school that has been plagued with problems since it was built.

The Ross River School was constructed on permafrost between 1999 and 2000. It was already showing signs of trouble within a few years of going up.

The department estimates it has spent approximately $3 million on various repairs and studies since 2002, Mostyn said.

Reports from earlier this year say permafrost under the school continues to warm, causing the building to move.

The minister said he is “skeptical” of doing the same sort of levelling that has been done in the past. He said he wants to know all the options that are available.

“We need some sort of structure. Then we have to find out if we can pull together the finances to build a new school or if this one can be salvaged in some way,” he said.

“Can it be moved? I don’t have all the answers. There are smart people who do and we have to gather this information so we have all our options going forward.”

Even with Yukon’s short construction season, Mostyn said he’s been assured by his department that there is enough time this summer to do the relevelling if that is the direction the government chooses.

He couldn’t say when a final decision would have to be made in order to get the work done in time.

“We don’t have all the time in the world.”

Cash for relevelling isn’t the only bill the government is going to have to consider.

A thermosyphon system under the school is supposed to pull heat away from the building foundation and surrounding soil. Mostyn has said the system isn’t working.

A report from earlier this year said to get any sort of permanent stability, the permafrost needs to refreeze.

One option is to install refrigeration units that would refreeze the ground. The price tag for that is $500,000.

A geotechnical study looking at the ground under the school hasn’t been completed yet. Mostyn has said the government has to wait for the weather to get warmer.

The latest structural report was completed after two earthquakes shook the territory in early May

The earthquakes did not play a significant role in the damage that was found in the building, Mostyn said.

Stacey Hassard, the MLA for Pelly-Nisutlin, said the government needs to come up with a clear plan with refined numbers.

“We can’t leave the community without a school,” he said. “They have to do something.”

Engineers are recommending another inspection of the school this July.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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