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Mistakes still plague ambulance station

The temporary ambulance station on top of Two Mile Hill has been operating 24/7 since the first week of January, deputy premier Elaine Taylor told a media conference Tuesday.

The temporary ambulance station on top of Two Mile Hill has been operating 24/7 since the first week of January, deputy premier Elaine Taylor told a media conference Tuesday.

Not true, said Emergency Medical Services director Michael McKeage five minutes later.

An ambulance crew was supposed to be stationed at the temporary trailer atop Two Mile Hill around the clock, but there were “technical difficulties,” he said.

“There were irregular heating issues and problems accessing amenities.” That is, the heat didn’t work and staff couldn’t get to the bathroom.

This, after the government spent more than $40,000 upgrading the construction trailer and building a plywood hallway to the Wildland Fire building.

And last winter, whenever there was an ambulance stationed there, it had to be kept running because a garage door in the Wildland Fire building wasn’t installed in September, as planned.

So there have only been round-the-clock crews at the temporary trailer since spring, said McKeage.

Tuesday’s news conference was called to announce construction of the new ambulance station, something that has been on the back burner for more than six years.

In 2004, the territorial government was planning to partner with the city and house its second ambulance base at the new public safety building, also atop Two Mile Hill.

Co-operating would have saved millions, eliminating the need for two separate disaster-resistant buildings across the street from one another.

But for some reason, it didn’t happen.

“We have enough space on that property to work out some arrangement with (the Yukon government) for the ambulance base, if that is their wish,” said Mayor Bev Buckway in 2007.

But the territorial government refused to come to the table, said Coun. Doug Graham at the time. “We knew we needed a new fire hall reasonably quickly, so our city administration gave (the Yukon government) a drop-dead date to be included in the new building ... we needed to know by December (2007),” he said.

But the government had commitment issues.

So today, the $10.9-million public safety building will sit across from what is projected to be a $7.3-million ambulance station.

To speed construction of the new station - on the cusp of an election - the foundation of the new facility will be built on piles.

“This will facilitate quicker construction,” said project manager Philip Christensen.

And to speed things up further, the foundation contract was split from the main construction contract, he said.

Construction of the actual building isn’t expected to begin until late fall or early next spring, said Christensen.

And unlike the FH Collins construction project, when ground is broken for the new ambulance station the government won’t be breaking the law.

We have all the necessary Yukon Socio-economic Assessment Board permits in place, said Christensen.

“The Yukon Party had its hands slapped for circumventing the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act in their rush to announce (the FH Collins) project before Yukoners go to the polls,” said Liberal MP Don Inverarity, who attended the ambulance station announcement.

“That casts doubt on whether any progress has actually been made on the EMS station, or if this is just another ribbon-cutting.”

The new building will house communication officers, support staff and paramedics, said McKeage.

Right now, Emergency Medical Services’ communication centre is in a windowless hallway the size of two large phone booths, he said.

That’s where all the 911 calls are answered.

Mock-ups of the new building show wrap-around windows on the second floor, where the new communication centre will be.

On the ground floor there will be room for up to six ambulances and that’s where the paramedics will be housed.

There will also be a new, expansive training area.

Right now, we are training in the basement of the Riverdale base, said McKeage.

McKeage was not certain how many ambulance staff would be stationed at the new building and how many would remain in Riverdale, once both stations are operational.

“We have to do a volume analysis,” he said.

Once the new station is in operation, ambulance response times will be improved, said McKeage.

“This will offer better service to our growing population,” said Taylor, mentioning Whistle Bend.

Cormode and Dickson is putting in the pile foundation, said Christensen.

That work is expected to cost $550,000.

Contact Genesee Keevil at