Whitehorse city council voted to continue waiving transit and parking meter fees in light of COVID-19 during a special council meeting on April 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Free transit, parking will continue in Whitehorse

Penalties, interest eliminated on utility bills until Sept. 30

The City of Whitehorse will continue to provide free public transit and downtown parking for the time being while also eliminating penalties and interest for late payments on utility bills owed to the city until Sept. 30.

Whitehorse city council passed the resolutions at a special meeting April 9.

The city originally suspended parking meter fines and transit fares March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures put in place.

An end date of April 13 for the free parking and transit was originally set, with officials noting it would be looked at again closer to April 13. At the April 9 meeting, members were presented with reports stating the public health emergency declared by the territory’s chief medical officer of health Brendan Hanley on March 16 continues.

Members agreed the city should continue to offer free parking and transit until the emergency declaration is rescinded.

Coun. Samson Hartland pointed out the wording of the resolutions now means the matter won’t have to keep coming back to council while the health emergency continues in the territory.

“This makes sense,” Coun. Jan Stick commented before voting on the transit fares.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu described the free parking as a “very small price” to pay while Coun. Steve Roddick pointed out there’s many essential workers keeping store shelves stocked who use public transit.

Meanwhile, the decision to eliminate penalties and interest for late payments of utility bills comes in light of the many layoffs and business closures due to COVID-19.

As Brittany Dixon, the city’s manager of financial services, told council: “Some residents and local businesses are experiencing increasing financial strain resulting from the loss of employment or closure of business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In conjunction with other municipalities, the City of Whitehorse is considering changes to the way billing and collection for utilities and other services could be provided, with a focus on providing citizens and businesses with additional payment options.”

While regulations for property tax collection falls under the territory’s tax act (and work is underway by the territory to look at that issue), under the Municipal Act the city can allow temporary relief from interest charges and penalties on its utility bills when there is an emergency.

“These measures would provide relief for customers who may not be able to afford to pay their bills,” Dixon said. “By suspending late payment charges, utility customers will be in a position to choose whether they are able to delay payments for utility services without negative financial impact.”

Preauthorized payments will continue to be collected unless a customer cancels their preauthorization plan. Dixon said customers can cancel by emailing the city or by making an appointment if they’re not able to use email. Council members were again vocal in their support for the move.

“People are struggling,” Coun. Laura Cabott said. “People are finding it difficult to pay their bills.”

She described the penalty/interest relief as a creative, fair, responsible way the city can offer some financial relief to citizens.

As Roddick put it: “This is something we can act on immediately.”

Hartland suggested the Sept. 30 timeline could be a date the territory considers as it looks at the issue of potentially deferring property tax payments this year.

Meanwhile, it will be at least April 14 before a decision is made on whether the city will enforce its bylaw aimed at keeping cardboard from being mixed in with regular waste coming into the landfill.

The city has been asking residents to hold on to their recycling while the two recycling firms in the city are shut due to COVID-19, though officials have also stated those who aren’t able to store their recycling can mix it in with their household waste.

“With the actions taken by the local recycling processors, the Waste Management Facility will see cardboard exceed the 10 per cent threshold of the total load that is set out in Schedule D of the Waste Management Bylaw,” Peter O’Blenes, the city director of infrastructure and operations, said in his report to council. “This will mean that unsorted waste fees would be applied if cardboard is in excess of 10 per cent of a waste load.”

O’Blenes then put forward the recommendation the city not enforce the regulations around cardboard at the landfill until one month after the public health emergency declaration has been rescinded.

The additional month would allow time to process cardboard placed in dumpsters or garbage bins before the declaration ends.

A lengthy discussion among council followed with some members pointing to the extensive work done to keep cardboard out of the landfill. There were also concerns brought forward by Raven Recycling officials over cardboard ending up in the landfill, council members pointed out.

“To go backwards here, even if it’s for a few months, that troubles me,” Cabott said.

She initially suggested a two week deferral on the matter, but Coun. Dan Boyd moved for it to be deferred only until April 14.

That leaves just one business day following the long weekend for city staff to get in touch with officials at Raven about the issue and their concerns, but Boyd said an amendment could be made at the April 14 meeting if more time is needed to look at the issue. Questioned by Cabott on the likelihood of actually having a discussion with Raven before the meeting, city manager Linda Rapp replied staff would try to reach Raven officials but that she was not sure about their availability.

“We can give it our best shot,” she said.

Mayor Dan Curtis was the only member of council to vote against moving the matter to the next council meeting, wanting to see it dealt with at the special meeting.

Curtis was also the only member of council physically at the meeting to chair the session. Council has altered its meeting format in light of social distancing practices so that the member chairing the meeting (typically the mayor or deputy mayor) is the only member physically present. Other attend via conference call with staffing at the session also kept to a minimum.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council

Just Posted

The Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park will open on May 13. Joel Krahn/Yukon News
Whitehorse’s Fireweed Market opens May 13

The Fireweed Market will return with ‘exciting’ new and returning vendors

Ron Rousseau holds a sign saying ‘It’s time for a cultural shift’ during the Yukoners: Raise Your Voice Against Misogyny rally on May 11. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Protest held to condemn Yukon Party MLAs’ texts

A rally was held outside of legislature to condemn the inappropriate texts messages of Yukon Party MLAs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko.


Wyatt’s World for May 12, 2021.… Continue reading

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file
File photo of the legislative assembly. The previous spring sitting began on March 4 but was interrupted due to the election.
Throne speech kicks off short spring legislature sitting

The government will now need to pass the budget.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Most Read