Dawson pleads for new rec centre

Dawson City wants a new recreation centre, municipal council declared in a resolution this week.

Dawson City wants a new recreation centre, municipal council declared in a resolution this week.

The decision comes on the heels of a recent geotechnical inspection that found the facility sits on melting permafrost, and that this wobbly foundation is the reason why the building’s rafters have warped in recent years.

“That’s what’s jacking it up and down,” said Christine Smith, Yukon’s acting director of community affairs. “That’s what’s causing the instability.”

This finding contradicts earlier inspections, which found, in the words of ex-mayor John Steins, that the building was “sound as a pound.”

But there’s been long-standing sourness over the state of the building, which holds the town’s hockey and curling rinks.

It was supposed to feature an artificial ice rink but this never came to be, as the centre was caught up in a tangle of construction controversies, around the same time as the city administration was shuttered by the territorial government over concerns of financial mismanagement.

Most of the building is considered structurally safe, but it is expected to require continual inspections and repairs, said Smith.

In March, the territory committed to spending $4 million over five years to help repair the centre. Some would like to see part of this money used to complete the building’s unfinished second-storey mezzanine.

City administrators recently told councillors doing so would run afoul of the funding agreement with the territory and “put into jeopardy the whole of the funding,” according to the Klondike Sun.

But “that’s not really true,” said Smith. The deal does require that structural repairs be done first, but if money is left over, it could be used to finish the building’s mezzanine, she said.

Mayor Peter Jenkins, who did not respond to an interview request, has been in talks with Klondike MLA Steve Nordick about the possibility of the territory chipping in funds for a new recreation centre, which is being proposed as a joint venture between the city, territory and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation.

Nordick expressed his enthusiasm for the idea to Jenkins in a letter dated December 14, in which he said he stands “ready to assist” with this plan.

Steins, meanwhile, who regularly blogs about Dawson happenings, has dubbed the call for a new recreation centre “the gushing money faucet.”

“Dawson serves approximately 1,800 citizens in and around the town,” Steins wrote. “We are in the process of spending $25 million for a wastewater treatment plant, a new health facility for another $25 million, and the Dawson Yukon College Campus for $5 million plus, and another cool $6 million or so for a new Yukon Housing apartment building. Further, what will a new and improved recreation complex cost – $40 million, perhaps?

“The golden rule that almost every elected politician understands is; to win the hearts of the electorate, pave their roads. So we can add another $6 million to the tab for the Front Street resurfacing that was done last summer.

“If we tally the total, including the estimate for a new rec centre, we are contemplating over $100 million or, roughly $55,000 per citizen. Not bad!”