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Members agreed the city should continue to offer free parking and transit until the emergency declaration is rescinded.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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gives a COVID-19 update during a press conference in Whitehorse on May 26. The Yukon government announced two new cases of COVID-19 in the territory with a press release on Oct. 19. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
Two new cases of COVID-19 announced in Yukon

Contact tracing is complete and YG says there is no increased risk to the public

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on April 8. Yukon Energy faced a potential “critical” fuel shortage in January due to an avalanche blocking a shipping route from Skagway to the Yukon, according to an email obtained by the Yukon Party and questioned in the legislature on Oct. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Energy faced ‘critical’ fuel shortage last January due to avalanche

An email obtained by the Yukon Party showed energy officials were concerned

Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys), the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. “Our government is proud to be supporting Yukon’s grassroots organizations and First Nation governments in this critical work,” said McLean of the $175,000 from the Yukon government awarded to four community-based projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government gives $175k to projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women

Four projects were supported via the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

When I was a kid, CP Air had a monopoly on flights… Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse. Alkan Air has filed its response to a lawsuit over a 2019 plane crash that killed a Vancouver geologist on board, denying that there was any negligence on its part or the pilot’s. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Alkan Air responds to lawsuit over 2019 crash denying negligence, liability

Airline filed statement of defence Oct. 7 to lawsuit by spouse of geologist killed in crash

Whitehorse city council members voted Oct. 13 to decline an increase to their base salaries that was set to be made on Jan. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council declines increased wages for 2021

Members will not have wages adjusted for CPI

A vehicle is seen along Mount Sima Road in Whitehorse on May 12. At its Oct. 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the third reading for two separate bylaws that will allow the land sale and transfer agreements of city-owned land — a 127-square-metre piece next to 75 Ortona Ave. and 1.02 hectares of property behind three lots on Mount Sima Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse properties could soon expand

Land sale agreements approved by council

Most Read