New ambulance station moves forward

Construction of the new Emergency Response Centre in Whitehorse is set to begin this spring. A Whitehorse-based construction company, TSL Contractors, won the $4.98-million contract to build the centre.

Construction of the new Emergency Response Centre in Whitehorse is set to begin this spring.

A Whitehorse-based construction company, TSL Contractors, won the $4.98-million contract to build the centre.

The foundation for the $7.3-million centre has already been laid. A different company was contracted to do that work last fall.

The contract and construction phases were split in an effort to speed things up, said Sheila Stockton, the senior building program manager with the Yukon government.

“It was done in order to keep the process going and get the construction going quickly in the spring,” she said. “Otherwise, we’d be waiting to get into the ground at this point.”

Plans for the Emergency Response Centre have been in the works since 2004.

Originally the idea was to save money by partnering with the city, housing the ambulance base in the new public safety building at the top of Two Mile Hill.

But after three years, the municipal and territorial governments still weren’t able to hammer out a deal.

In 2007, the city told the Yukon government that it needed an answer by December.

But the territorial government refused to come to the table, said former city councillor Doug Graham, at the time.

Instead of being housed together, the new Emergency Response Centre is being built across from the city’s $10.9-million public safety building.

The centre won’t just be an ambulance station. In addition to housing ground and air medical crews, the building will also contain an emergency communications centre, a training facility and a garage where ambulances can be refurbished on site.

Having an integrated facility “will allow us to test some new concepts,” said Michael McKeage, director of Yukon Emergency Medical Services.

“If bad things happen, we have boardroom facilities and telecommunications systems there that will allow us to gather and to support our team wherever they are in the territory,” he said.

In addition to the new centre, emergency medical services has also purchased a brand-new ambulance, bringing the territory’s total to 23.

“There are a lot of features on the newer ambulances that are leaning toward safety for patients and technicians,” said Eric Grasholm, the director of operations for medical services.

Those include exterior and interior cameras and a more stable vehicle configuration, he said.

The new ambulance, with a price tag of $147,000, actually came in under budget, which is good news for emergency medical services, which has struggled over the past year with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost overruns.

According to an internal executive overview from March of 2011, emergency medical services was on track to be more than $600,000 over budget by the end of the year.

McKeage couldn’t say if that prediction had come true.

“We still got another month or two to go for the fiscal year and there are still a couple of other expenditures that we need to deal with,” he said. “We have put a number of control processes in place on purchasing and overtime.

“I have to say, with staff and management, I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made. We’re doing better than we were.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com