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Three companies vie to build seniors megaplex

The Yukon government has announced its shortlist of possible companies to design and build the first half of its big, new continuing care facility in Whistle Bend.

The Yukon government has announced its shortlist of possible companies to design and build the first half of its big, new continuing care facility in Whistle Bend.

Three companies made the cut – Lark Group, PCL Construction and Sage Healthcare Partners, a joint bid from Bird Construction and Clark Builders – to create the 150-bed facility.

None of these companies are based in Whitehorse, but a networking event is being held on June 22 for local subcontractors hoping to work on the project. The event is being co-sponsored by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Contractors Association.

“The number of highly skilled companies that came forward to participate in this project speaks to the significance of this essential new facility,” Public Works Minister Scott Kent said in a statement.

“This is going to be one of Yukon’s largest-ever capital projects. Among our top priorities now is ensuring that projects like this continue to deliver benefits that support our local industries.”

Following concerns about the size of the build, the government has pushed back plans to build the facility’s second phase.

Originally, the plan was that “the initial phase will be for 150 beds, with the second phase of an additional 150 beds to begin immediately after completion,” according to a December 2014 news release.

But in April, Nixon said the second half of the building could be eight, 10 or 20 years down the road.

The price tag for the completed facility remains unclear. A 2013 report pegs the construction cost at $126 million. That number was repeated in the government’s most recent financial forecast, but the Department of Highways and Public Works now says that number is inaccurate. It was a high level estimate for only the first 150 bed-facility, said spokesperson Kendra Black.

In April in the legislature, Health Minister Mike Nixon said the total cost for both phases has been estimated at either $268 million or $330 million. Those two estimates take into account different timelines, he said.

Black won’t say how much has been set aside for the first phase. Budgets are never released until a contract is awarded, she said.

This year’s territorial budget has $26 million set aside for the design and procurement process.

Six design-build teams responded to the request for qualifications, which closed on May 6.

The three finalists will now put together proposals before the government awards the contract to the winner.

Construction of the 150-bed facility is expected to begin in early 2016, with a completion target of mid-2018.

The planned facility has drawn criticism that it is too big and too far away from downtown Whitehorse. The Grandparents’ Rights Association of the Yukon is the latest to express its concern.

Eleanor Millard said elderly residents need more supports to be offered closer to home.

“Mostly, I’m concerned about people from the communities, you know? If they decide that they’re going to move somebody to Whitehorse who’s lived forever in Dawson or Ross River or something.”

Millard worked as a social worker in Dawson City in the 1960s. At that time First Nation elders were sent out to B.C. facilities, she said.

“That was really devastating for the family, and certainly for the elder who was taken completely out of the Yukon.”

While moving to Whitehorse is not quite the same thing, she does see the potential for similar problems.

“People feel that way. To come to Whitehorse is of course easier than it was in the ‘60s. But still, an elder who’s now 80 or 70, coming to Whitehorse and being away from their family and their whole culture, it’s ridiculous.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at