Plans to renovate the former transit building in Marwell and build a new structure at Robert Service Campground this year will move forward.
In a 6-1 vote on each issue, Whitehorse city council members authorized both projects. Coun. Ted Laking was the only member to vote against each, beginning with the renovations to the former transit building.
That project will see 139 Tlingit Street transformed into the city’s new parks building.
As stated in a previous report to council, the most recent estimate for the work exceeds the $1.425 million budget and plans have been scaled back “on a number of energy and mechanical/electrical items to bring this project within budget.”
The project will see the city add a biomass heating system, though the original oil burner system will remain as a back-up.
The tender will be released Feb. 25 with a contract expected in place in April. Work is anticipated to get underway in May and be finished by May of 2023.
Laking emphasized that he’s not opposed to the project itself and highlighted potential savings and benefits in moving to biomass heating, but also pointed out there could be potential issues with getting a supply of biomass for the system.
He also noted that the capital budget had yet to be approved and argued approving the tender ahead of that was “putting the cart before the horse.”
Council would go on to approve the budget later in the meeting, with Laking also voting against the spending plan.
Mayor Laura Cabott noted the project is part of the city’s overall consolidation plan that will see a number of services consolidated into larger buildings. Other parts of the consolidation work have seen a number of departments (including transit) moved to the new operations building off Range Road, which opened in 2020, the planned building of a new city hall, and the new fire hall built downtown in 2021. The project has also seen the former municipal services building on Fourth Avenue closed with many staff there moving to the operations building.
Cabott said the renovations to the former transit building to become a new parks building will free up real estate elsewhere in Marwell, where parks currently works.
What happens to the current parks property has not yet been determined, but it could be used for development or other initiatives, she pointed out.
The mayor also noted her excitement for a new building at Robert Service Campground, a plan that has been put off a few times. While the plans have also been scaled back due to rising costs, Cabott described the campground as an asset that is special to both citizens and visitors alike.
“I think with these improvements we’re going to get a lot more use out of this 365 days of the year,” she said.
Cabott also highlighted the federal funding that is going to the building plans with Ottawa providing $2.8 million of the anticipated $3 million cost.
Coun. Dan Boyd also voiced his support for the project, while acknowledging the challenges being faced with any such project right now given labour shortages, supply issues and increased costs to building materials.
“We can expect there will be challenges with these projects,” he said of both the campground and parks building.
In addition to the 6-1 vote that approved going to tender for the buildings, council unanimously voted in favour of going to tender on its contracts for propane and fuel (which includes heating fuel, diesel and gasoline).
Current contracts on both of those end July 1, prompting the city to move ahead with the tenders.
Each will be a five-year contract with tender documents to be released Jan. 24 and contracts awarded April 4 and in service after July 1.
The city’s procurement policy requires council authorization to move forward with any procurement estimated to be $500,000 or more.
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