Government officials warned against Whistle Bend continuing care site

A high-ranking health official once warned that a massive continuing care facility in the sparsely-occupied Whistle Bend subdivision would be a "nightmare and will haunt the government.

A high-ranking health official once warned that a massive continuing care facility in the sparsely-occupied Whistle Bend subdivision would be a “nightmare and will haunt the government.”

These warnings, in the end, didn’t deter the Yukon government from proceeding with these plans. Internal documents shed some light on the controversial decision to put 300 beds in the city’s newest subdivision.

Tamara Goeppel filled out an access-to-information request that obtained these documents because she says she wanted to understand how the Whistle Bend site was chosen.

“When I talk to seniors and I talk to elders and I talk to the families, it just didn’t seem to make sense that Whistle Bend was chosen.”

Goeppel shared the documents with the CBC, and some of them have been made public.

What she found was Whistle Bend somehow went from a last choice to a possible second choice, to the final choice – all while Porter Creek appeared to have much more going for it.

According to a “confidential advice to the minister” memo completed by the Department of Public Works in April 2014, four sites were originally considered for the facility – in Porter Creek, Riverdale, Copper Ridge and Whistle Bend.

When a geotechnical study was done that month, Porter Creek came out on top and Whistle Bend was in last place.

In Whistle Bend there are issues with silt, a basement is not recommended and the area is susceptible to frost heaves.

On April 9, 2014 – five days after the geotechnical report -“instructions were provided by the senior management that sites in Porter Creek, Riverdale and Copper Ridge should be taken off the table for any further work, whereas the site in Whistle Bend remains under the scope,” according to the memo.

There’s no information on why that decision was made.

The Public Works memo “highly recommends” that the Porter Creek site be added back into the discussion.

Other sites – a spot on Range Road and the north end of the tank farm – were added to the list but eliminated.

So far, the Yukon Party isn’t directly commenting on the matter.

Aside from a short statement saying “this government values the hard work and collaboration of officials who have brought this project to this point,” Premier Darrell Pasloski was not available for an interview. He is expected to answer questions later today.

By July 2014 a business case analysis by T-Square Architecture Ltd. was made public and Porter Creek is back in contention.

Guidelines for the site included being in an established community, close to transit and the ability to integrate with local schools. It explicitly says the site should not be in a community under development – presumably like Whistle Bend – because of the disruption ongoing construction can cause.

The Porter Creek site, meanwhile, is next to Porter Creek Secondary School. It is in an established community with excellent transit and a bus stop right out front.

“Being located adjacent to a high school is ideal for community building, volunteer opportunities, and career training. It is also positive that the site is located in an established residential neighbourhood with existing transit service,” the report says.

The government anticipates that a new school will be built in Whistle Bend sometime between 2019 to 2024, along with commercial development and more housing.

“The Whistle Bend site would allow the new Whitehorse continuing care facility to become an ‘anchor tenant’ of Whitehorse’s newest neighbourhood. It is a suitable location for the new facility on many fronts although it can be said that a lot rides on the future and continued development of Whistle Bend.”

When it’s done, Whistle Bend is supposed to have 8,000 residents. But recent sales of lots have not gone well. Last month, none of the 50 lots in a lottery were sold. The report states that the city expected 1,000 residents to live in Whistle Bend by spring of this year.

For Goeppel, choosing Whistle Bend means choosing what could be over what is already established and that’s troubling.

“It was a highly slanted decision-making process to favour Whistle Bend and it really seemed to satisfy the agenda of government to finance and to populate an under-performing project as opposed to ask what the needs of the residents of a future continuing care facility are,” she said.

The report concludes that “with the exception of a slighter higher cost of the construction and the newness of the neighbourhood Whistle Bend is considered to be a viable second choice.”

Though Whistle Bend is actually listed as being a higher risk because of “unusually costly foundation work,” the report mentions in passing possible public resistance to the Porter Creek site,

“… Should anticipated public resistance to the project in Porter Creek be considered of paramount importance to the smooth, unencumbered overall progress of the project the Whistle Bend site may indeed be a preferred location by the majority of YG decision-makers.”

In an email exchange between officials before the report was released, Cathy Morton-Bielz, assistant deputy minister of continuing care, strongly disagrees with proceeding with the Whistle Bend site.

“From a program perspective (which is an important one) Whistle Bend lot is not a strong second (regardless of community opposition) because it is not in an established community.

“The optics of placing a care facility in an empty field is really a nightmare and will haunt the government for far longer than a bit of community opposition. There was lots of opposition to Copper Ridge Place going in – the neighbours are now delighted we are there. The same will happen if PC is chosen.”

Whistle Bend was announced as the location in December.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read