An online petition calling for the City of Whitehorse to cancel plans for a new city hall is garnering digital signatures and comments.
As of the morning of April 14, a total of 183 had added their names to the petition with close to a dozen comments made about the project.
The city is currently assessing its options for the plans after all three bids for the project came in nearly $10 million over budget, ranging between $32 and $39 million for construction only.
The project had been budgeted to be $26.2 million for the entire endeavour that would see a new and renovated city hall and services building along with a new transit hub built on the site of the current city hall at Second Avenue and Steele Street.
When the bids came in over budget in early April, officials said building and space options would be assessed with an update provided over the coming weeks.
The petition cites media reports about the rising costs of the project, noting, “We need to let the city know that we think there are better ways to spend our money.”
Comments attached to the petition argue the city can’t afford the project, that money should be spent on other priorities such as addressing housing and highlight general complaints about the city.
While city officials are assessing options in light of the bid prices, the plans as currently proposed would see part of the current city hall and former firehall on the site 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 built in 1987 would also see significant renovations.
The cenotaph on the site at Second Avenue would also be moved to the Steele Street side of the new building.
Much of the funding for the work has been slated to come from other levels of government. The federal small communities fund is set to put $10.7 million towards the services building and $5 million to the city hall upgrade. The investing in Canada infrastructure program would put $450,000 towards the transit hub and Yukon Good Energy is set to fund $1.275 million for the heating system.
That means the city would spend $8.77 million from its reserves if the project was able to meet its $26.2 million budget.
Increasing costs have been a concern throughout the planning. Changes have been made since the initiative first came forward as three separate projects for a new services building, downtown transit hub and renovations to city hall.
In 2019, the city incorporated the three projects into one to be built on the site of the current city hall. A total of $20.8 million was approved at that time for the project.
More detailed designs, including structural engineering work, revealed the original portion of city hall, built in 1966, could not be renovated. Changes to the plans were made to demolish the older portion of city hall in favour of a complete rebuild as the least expensive option to deal with the situation. That increased the cost up to an estimated $24.7 million.
Since then inflation has impacted the plans and the most recent budget brought the estimate up to $26.2 million, including construction and associated costs.
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