Costs rise to rebuild F.H. Collins Secondary

The Yukon government isn't counting the cost of necessary renovations to the F.H. Collins tech and trades wing in its budget for the school reconstruction project.

The Yukon government isn’t counting the cost of necessary renovations to the F.H. Collins tech and trades wing in its budget for the school reconstruction project.

The government has budgeted $3 million to upgrade the facility and put in a heating system so that it can function as a stand-alone building when the old school is decommissioned.

Consultants’ estimates suggest the project will cost more than that.

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver asked in the legislature this week why the government did not consider the costs and benefits of renovating the existing trades wing compared to building a new one into the new school.

“A government that does good planning would have looked at it and would have looked at what the cost would have been to upgrade the trades wing and compared it to the cost of building it right into the new school,” he said.

The Yukon government continues to insist that the F.H. Collins rebuild is on time and on budget, although project completion has been delayed at least two years, and costs continue to rise.

Before the 2011 election, Premier Darrell Pasloski hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on the building, announcing it would open in August of 2013 for a total project cost of $52.5 million.

But costs quickly spiralled out of control, as the government continued to promise features it did not budget for, like geothermal heat and a temporary gym during construction.

When contract tenders came back at a higher price than the government was prepared to spend, it scrapped the designs completely, after spending more than $5 million on the planning.

It replaced the fancy, custom-designed school plans with a smaller school based on existing constructions in Alberta.

The government maintains that decision has saved Yukoners money.

With the new, downsized plans, the government says the school will be built within the $52-million overall budget.

But that’s only if you buy the argument that the tech and trades wing renovations aren’t part of the reconstruction project.

“I just got so frustrated,” said Silver in an interview this week. “I’ve heard time and time again from the minister, ‘on time and on budget,’ and that’s not true. Neither of those statements are true.”

The government should have made tech and trades a priority in the planning, he said.

“We’re underutilizing our youth in preparing them for the industry that we have in our backyard.

“Tech and trades hasn’t even been considered in this new design. So it kind of fell off their desk, in their desire to get re-elected.”

This week Silver asked what the government expects to spend on the tech and trades wing upgrades.

Pasloski responded that Silver “has no clue what he’s talking about.”

“We saved the taxpayers millions of dollars, which we reinvested in other capital and we have reinvested in paying for teachers and doctors and building hospitals. What we will have is a beautiful school that the students and the teachers and the community will be very proud of, and we look forward to that school opening very shortly.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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