Government pours concrete first, costs project later

If the government decides to expand the Whitehorse Correctional Centre's arrest processing unit 20 years from now, it will have plenty of space to do so.

If the government decides to expand the Whitehorse Correctional Centre’s arrest processing unit 20 years from now, it will have plenty of space to do so.

The concrete pad that the new arrest processing unit will sit on was poured – in-floor heating and all – before the plans for the building were finalized, and it’s too big – 90 square metres too big.

“What happened was there was a design that had been prepared and then after the slab was poured, the numbers coming in for the original design were about $2 million over budget so we kind of put a halt on the program, reviewed the design that had been originally done and decided that we could move forward with a redesign and keeping ourselves fiscally responsible and working within the budget that we had,” said Yukon Justice Minister Mike Nixon.

The arrest processing unit replaces the RCMP’s old drunk tank downtown. Its slab was poured last fall when construction crews were finishing work on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The thought was that since crews were already on site anyway, the government could save some money by putting down the footprint for the new building early.

The old design was for a building with a footprint of 305 square metres, but in order to save money, the government redesigned it down to 215 square metres. They’ll still build it on the existing concrete pad. They’ll just have a lot more breathing room than they thought they would.

“So basically what will happen, the best analogy is a hockey stick. They’ll cut into the concrete where the blade starts, and pinch off the in floor heating and cap it, which is fine. In 15 or 20 years down the road when that APU is maybe at capacity, who knows, we’ve got a concrete pad and existing infrastructure that we can move onto,” Nixon said.

Part of the problem is that funding for the processing unit is shared between the Yukon government and the RCMP. When the price for the proposed new building came back at almost $7 million, the RCMP couldn’t pay their portion of the extra cost, Nixon said.

So the building was redesigned to a smaller size, but will still meet the operational requirements, Nixon said.

The arrest processing unit’s creation was recommended by the report into the death of Raymond Silverfox, who died in police custody in 2008. The report said an arrest processing unit should be built downtown to provide a safe place for arrestees to be monitored before they are charged and placed in cells. Instead, the government decided to build the unit at the Whitehorse jail, and budgeted $4.5 million for it.

The NDP’s justice critic Lois Moorcroft said the snafu is yet another example of the government’s poor project-planning skills.

“The way planning should be done is you design, and then you tender, and then you build. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money to refuse to do the planning in the first place. They can’t make it up as they go along,” Moorcroft said.

She said the government has already spent $1.3 million on the project so far.

Neither Nixon nor the Department of Highways and Public Works could confirm the concrete pad’s cost to pour or what it will cost to cut and cap the in-floor heating.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com