Dump dominates Dawson’s mayoral race

Someone pissed off Dawson City Mayor Peter Jenkins, it appears. In May, veteran politician announced he wouldn't seek another term as mayor, "unless someone really pisses me off."

Someone pissed off Dawson City Mayor Peter Jenkins, it appears.

In May, veteran politician announced he wouldn’t seek another term as mayor, “unless someone really pisses me off.”

On Wednesday, Jenkins wouldn’t point fingers at any culprit who caused him to run again. Instead, he said there was simply too much left to do before he can leave his post.

“There’s a lot of things left to be done that weren’t accomplished,” he said.

Wayne Potoroka, a town councillor and Jenkins’ only competitor, couldn’t agree more.

“We’ve been spinning our wheels on a number of issues,” said the first-time mayoral candidate.

“We’ve got a landfill agreement with the Yukon government that’s still unsigned after three years. We’ve got a waste management plan that’s been collecting dust for 2.5 years and a landfill that’s rapidly filling up with garbage, and if we don’t do something about that we’ll be looking for a new hole to put our trash into.”

In fact, the landfill agreement has been underway for far longer, said Jenkins. He reckons it’s been in the works for at least six years.

“We haven’t gotten anywhere with the Yukon government on it. They want it to be a regional landfill, and right now it’s quite a problem, and it’s going to be one of the next issues that has to be dealt with.”

Despite the lack of an agreement, the Klondike town’s dump is already receiving regional waste, said Jenkins. But unlike other landfills taking in waste from surrounding communities, Dawson’s neighbours are mines and the Dempster Highway – or, as Jenkins calls it, the “Dumpster” Highway – which destroys tires and vehicles on a pretty regular basis.

The town shouldn’t be responsible for that type of waste, said Jenkins. And the costs to de-rim tires and ship waste oil to facilities in Alberta shouldn’t be shouldered by Dawson City unless the garbage came from a resident.

The territory should cover the costs for everything else, said Jenkins. Or the Yukon government could open its own landfill, he added.

Potoroka sees the real problem as a sour relationship between the two governments.

“We have to have more positive engagement with citizens, organizations and other governments who can play a part in moving Dawson City forward,” he said. “And we need to do a better job of setting priorities that we can share with staff and share with the community so they can hold us accountable for them, so we can finally move forward on a few items.”

As case in point, Potoroka points to the town’s plans to build a new recreation centre.

Both Jenkins and Potoroka see the costs to renovating the old centre as prohibitive. Jenkins pegs them between $40 to $70 million.

But costs to build a new centre still aren’t known.

Potoroka sees that as yet more evidence of poor planning by Jenkins’ government. There are never any “yardsticks” to chart progress and be held accountable to, he said.

For the recreational centre, there are no formal plans or cost estimates, and nothing is being told to the residents, he added.

The only thing residents have seen was a sod-turning photo op with Jenkins and former MLA Steve Nordick before the last territorial election, he said.

“No one could say how much it would cost to run this new facility that people thought was coming,” he said. “That’s frightening. Ultimately, whatever we build, we’re going to have to pay for it.”

Jenkins blames the embarrassing photo op on the territory.

“There was a change in government and the previous minister of Community Services did not take the issue to management and obtain approval before he convinced the city to have a sod-turning ceremony,” he said. “So we were left holding the bag. But there’s quite a sum of money that is in a kind-of account that the city can access and there’s a committee that has been struck. I’d like to see a new rec centre for the city. We’re probably the last community in the Yukon that doesn’t have artificial ice for hockey.”

Both candidates agree that Dawson City’s old buildings should be preserved as best they can.

The issue recently came up with the historic CIBC building on Front Street, which its owners want to demolish. Some shacks and shanties, meanwhile, have already started to fall down.

Potoroka wants a system of sticks and carrots for people who own such properties. It would make it easier for owners to afford restoration or to rebuild and renovate the land. Those unwilling to do either could see property taxes rise.

Jenkins supports an idea from private developers. They want to tear down old buildings but put a gold-rush-era facade on the front of the new building, as has been done with the Red Feather Saloon and new liquor store.

But no matter what happens, Dawson needs more housing lots, said Potoroka.

Jenkins disagrees. There are currently 32 houses in Dawson proper, West Dawson and the Klondike Valley on the market, not to mention “a number of houses for rent,” he said.

Housing concerns are only heard in the summer, he said. To solve that, there needs to be a compromise with companies that house their seasonal workers, he added.

“There’s a good chance that none of the existing council will be re-elected and it’s between Wayne and myself to see what happens,” said Jenkins, who was first elected as mayor from 1980 to 1995 before leaving for territorial politics. He stayed in the legislature until 2006 and was re-elected as mayor three years ago.

Potoroka served on council this past term along with Stephen Johnson and Bill Kendrick, who are putting their names in to keep their seats.

They are facing Hector Renaud, Johnny Nunan, Dick Van Nostrand, Darren Taylor and Kyla MacArthur. Rick Riemer is resigning his council seat. There will be an all-candidates forum hosted by the Dawson Chamber of Commerce at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com