While one Whitehorse city councillor has opted not to move forward with a motion that would halt plans to build a new and renovated city hall, another councillor’s proposal for a management plan on the project will be the subject of an upcoming council and administrative roundtable discussion.
At council’s Jan. 24 meeting, Coun. Ted Laking said he would not be bringing forward the motion he had planned that would halt the project and look at options like reducing the scope, finding alternative locations for city staff, cancelling it altogether, or containing costs. He had brought forward the ideas earlier as a notice of motion, highlighting the increasing costs the project — now estimated at $26.2 million — has faced.
Part of the current city hall and former firehall on the site would be demolished to make way for the new building that will house a number of city staff as well as a new transit hub. A portion of the current city hall building that was constructed in 1987 will also see significant renovations.
Continuing to focus on costs
Laking said that while he’s made his position clear, it was also evident from his discussions with other council members that the motion would not pass.
“I respect the will of this council and the opinions of my colleagues,” he said. “That said, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade and so I will continue to to advocate that as we go forward we do everything within our power to sharpen our pencils and prevent future cost overruns.”
He went on to note his support for Boyd’s proposal.
“I would like to just reflect on the fact that despite our disagreements on the future of the project, the path forward, I do think there’s been a lot of productive conversations over the last couple of weeks that will help address some of my concerns with the trajectory and the costs associated with this project. So I will be supporting the management plan for this project.”
A management plan proposed
In proposing a management plan, Boyd highlighted a number of challenges around it including the continuing pandemic, the timeline, labour shortages, inflation, supply chain issues and more.
“It’s just a very, very challenging time and it will be for this particular project. So what I’d like to ask is that we ask administration to consider the complexity and challenges with this project and, and perhaps, develop an oversight or a management plan, a unique management plan that we wouldn’t typically do with most of our capital projects, but this one being a unique project and facing the challenges we have with it.
“It puts an extra effort into considering the challenges that we may have in front of us and to put together or help us put together another layer of a management plan for the project.”
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu suggested a roundtable discussion as a forum where officials could look at the possibility in more detail.
Mayor Laura Cabott also suggested a technical briefing for the media that would lay out the plans and how they have evolved over time, pointing out that the project as it’s now proposed is very different from what was originally envisioned in 2014. Interim city manager Jeff O’Farrell siad both a management plan and communications plan could be beneficial.
“We, as a matter of course, would be following all the standard industry project management best practices,” he said.”But indeed, recognizing the significance of this project and the complexity of this project, the idea of creating a management plan specific to this project is a good idea, as is the idea for a communications plan.”
The roundtable discussion will be scheduled in the near future.
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