Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)

This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 20 meeting.

Landslide spending at $1.2 million so far

Dealing with the escarpment landslides that have hit the city since April has cost a total of $1.2 million so far.

In the City of Whitehorse semi-annual procurement update provided to Whitehorse city council June 20, a spending total of $770,000 was noted, with Valerie Braga, the city’s director of corporate services, noting an update earlier in the day after the procurement report drafted showed spending at $1.2 million with more expected.

The contracts to address the landslides have been given to Tetra Tech Canada, Cobalt Construction Inc. and Associated Engineering. The work will include engineering consulting, berm construction on Robert Service Way, geotechnical engineering services for continued monitoring of the escarpment and emergency municipal design for a sewer bypass in the Takhini area in case the sewer line is impacted by further sloughing.

A number of escarpment slides have been noted since April 30, when a large slide sent debris down the escarpment, across Robert Service Way and into the Yukon River. The road was closed until the evening of June 16, with a sheet piling wall and berm put in place to prevent further slides from reaching the road. Slides in other parts of the escarpment downtown have also closed off access to much of the base of the clay cliffs while the city continues to monitor the situation.

The procurement report also shows the city spent more than $17 million on open competition contracts, and $901,441 on single or sole source contracts valued at over $50,000 between January and June.

Adding cash for economic development

The City of Whitehorse could be footing the bill for a new economic development strategy after the Yukon government turned down the city’s request for project funding.

Luke Pantin, the city’s economic development coordinator, brought forward a recommendation at Whitehorse city council’s June 20 meeting that the $75,000 for the project come out of city reserves instead.

As Pantin explained, the city had applied to the Yukon government’s economic development fund for the $75,000 to hire a consultant, but the application was turned down.

“The EDS will provide a framework for community-based decisions aimed at enhancing the city’s economic base and building a healthy, stable community,” Pantin said. “Development of the strategy will be guided by council’s strategic priorities (2022-2024) and other relevant city strategies and plans, including the [Official Community Plan] and the 2015-2050 Sustainability Plan. It will also include input gathered through stakeholder engagement and from primary and secondary research sources.”

Preliminary work has already been done by city staff, including an analysis of the city’s previous economic development strategy and action plan as well as working on a readiness review.

Staff have already undertaken preliminary work, completing an in-depth analysis of the previous strategy and action plan, and conducting a local economic development readiness review.

“Once the new strategy and action plan is adopted by council as a guiding document, implementation and monitoring of the action plan will follow,” Pantin said. “It is understood that some actions may require additional resources before they can be implemented.”

Council will vote June 27 on whether to fund the work from reserves.

AYC appointments

Whitehorse city councillor Michelle Friesen may become the city’s representative on the Association of Yukon Communities.

At Whitehorse city council’s June 20 meeting, Valerie Braga, the city’s director of corporate services, brought forward a recommendation that council rescind Coun. Ted Laking’s appointment as the city representative for the association and instead appoint Friesen to the role.

Coun. Mellisa Murray also serves as a city representative on the AYC board.

Laking was elected as AYC president in May, a role that is separate from serving as the city’s representative, thus it is proposed his appointment be rescinded and Friesen take it on until the term expires on Oct. 31.

Council will vote on the matter June 27.

Improved access to cemetery planned

Improved access to Grey Mountain Cemetery could be in place next winter if Whitehorse city council moves forward with changes to the cemetery’s bylaw.

The proposed amendments would provide vehicle access to the cemetery on Nov. 10, 11 and Dec. 25 while also continuing to open upon request through the winter with 48-hours notice.

Landon Kulych, the city’s manager of parks, brought forward the proposed bylaw changes at council’s June 20 meeting. The proposal comes after council directed administration in March to look further into the possibility of improved winter access to the cemetery and consult regular winter visitors to the cemetery.

Council heard from a delegate in March who called for improvements.

Currently the gates to allow vehicle access into the cemetery are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 1 to Sept. 30 and by request with 48-hours notice from Oct. 1 to April 30.

Marney Paradis told the city in March she would like to see the city open the gates to vehicles on a regular schedule through the winter months in addition to the current on-demand service.

Such a move, she argued, would take the onus off those with mobility challenges to have to call and make arrangements to be there at a certain time.

She highlighted her own family’s situation where they have stopped requesting visits to her father’s grave through the winter because they never know if a family members’ chronic pain will flare up and force them to cancel.

In his report to council, Kulych said feedback from regular winter visitors on opening the gates for vehicle traffic on Remembrance Day and Christmas was generally pretty positive.

“The Whitehorse Legion also identified Nov. 10 as a desirable visitation date due to the numerous events that already occur on Nov. 11 each year,” he said.

With that, he put forward the recommendation that the gates be open for vehicle access on Nov. 10 and 11 as well as Dec. 25 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. along with meeting requests on other days.

Along with the changes to the schedule for opening, a number of other minor changes are also proposed for the bylaw including more inclusive language to the definition of immediate family; edits for clarity and general housekeeping edits.

Council members thanked city staff for their work to find ways to improve vehicle access to the cemetery through the winter.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council