An artist’s rendering of the planned city operations building. Ketza Construction has been awarded the contract for the project with a bid of $39 million. (Submitted image/City of Whitehorse)

Whitehorse awards $39M construction contract for new operations building

City council roundup for July 24

Whitehorse city council awarded July 24 the construction contract for the new operations building to local company Ketza Construction, which put in a bid of approximately $39.2 million for the project — about $3.8 million less than city experts had estimated the contract would cost.

The city received four bids for the contract, of which Ketza’s was the lowest. Two other bids were also lower than the city estimate of $43 million.

Council also adopted a bylaw authorizing a loan of up to $18.8 million to help fund the project, which has a total estimated budget of nearly $55 million. The federal government will also be contributing up to $23 million for the project via the gas tax fund.

The new structure, expected to be completed in spring 2019, will replace the current aging operations building and house Whitehorse’s fleet maintenance, waste and water services, transit, engineering and other operations departments.

Mayor Dan Curtis called Monday a “very exciting day,” adding he “couldn’t be more happy” with the bids the city received.

Coun. Samson Hartland was the lone dissenting vote on both the awarding of the contract and the loan bylaw. Hartland said he remains opposed to the project and the city taking on such a significant amount of debt.

Other councillors, however, expressed excitement and relief that the project was finally moving forward.

In other council business:

Council moves closer to adding $1M to Marwell project

A proposed bylaw to increase the budget for the Marwell lift station upgrade by $1 million unanimously passed first and second reading.

The proposed bylaw came at the recommendation of the city’s operations committee, which said the increased costs are the result of delays caused by “unforeseen conditions,” a lone higher-than-estimated bid to replace the process piping and the decision to put in a protective liner for the wet well.

The committee is also recommending the city use the money to amend its contract with Ketza Construction for the bypass vault project portion of the upgrade by $274,000 and award a $2.7 million contract to Wildstone Construction and Engineering for the process piping replacement.

The proposed bylaw will be up for its third and final reading at the regular council meeting Aug. 7. If approved, the additional funds would come from the gas tax fund or, failing that, the water and sewer reserve.

Councillors squabble over proposed $5,000 Red Cross donation for B.C. wildfires

In the lengthiest debate of the night, city council ultimately voted down a proposal by Coun. Dan Boyd to donate $5,000 to the Canadian Red Cross to aid with British Columbia wildfire relief efforts.

Curtis and councillors Roselyn Woodcock and Jocelyn Curteanu voted against the idea, because the city was nearing the limit of its donation budget for the year and it would be unfair to taxpayers and city departments to take money from other funds. All three said a donation was a good idea, but would not vote in favour of it without knowing where the money would come from.

On the other hand, Boyd argued that there were “numerous reserves” the city could tap into and that there was about $4,200 remaining in the donation budget, meaning the city would only be $800 short. Both Boyd and Hartland said they’d be willing to contribute their own personal funds to make up the difference, and Coun. Betty Irwin said it seemed funny council was “quibbling” over a few thousand dollars when it had just pushed ahead on multi-million-dollar contracts for the Marwell lift station upgrades and operations building.

Proposed business licence bylaw passes first readings

A proposed business licence bylaw that would give designated officers the power to deny, suspend or revoke a licence to someone with a criminal conviction unanimously passed first and second readings.

Parts of the proposed bylaw were amended or clarified from their original language to address concerns that they could be in violation of the Yukon Human Rights Act which prohibits discrimination based on criminal charges or criminal records. The bylaw now says the city could deny, suspend or revoke a licence to someone with a criminal conviction “based on reasonable grounds” and if doing so would be in the public interest.

A proposed amendment to the vehicle-for-hire bylaw that would make company owners and operators comply with the business licence bylaw also passed first and second readings.

Land disposition policy updates ushered in

Eligible non-profit organizations will no longer have to pay non-refundable deposits when buying certain pieces of city land, thanks to an updated version of the land disposition policy. The policy, unanimously approved by council, outlines how the city sells its land, regulating everything from methods to prices to closing dates.

With the updated policy, non-profit organizations that buy multi-family, townhouse, commercial, industrial and mixed-use lots or unserviced land from the city will no longer have to pay a non-refundable deposit equal to five per cent of the purchase price when asking for a time extension for a sale agreement. All other parties will still have to pay the deposit.

The update was triggered by the Challenge-Disability Resource Group buying the lot at 704 Main St. to build affordable housing.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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