Whitehorse city council voted Sept. 9 not to award a contract worth more than $150,000 for the beautification of Alexander Street after concerned residents expressed already feeling unsafe in the area. Residents and businesses listed witnessing fights, public intoxication, shouting from people loitering in the area and the presence of emergency vehicles daily as reasons why. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse calls off landscaping Alexander Street

The city will lose the federal cash that had been earmarked for the plans

Landscaping plans for Alexander Street are off, at least for now.

Whitehorse city council voted Sept. 9 not to award a contract worth more than $150,000 for the beautification of the downtown street.

Council had put the project on hold in August amid concerns from nearby residents who described feeling unsafe in their neighborhood or workplace after witnessing fights, public intoxication, listening to shouting from people loitering in the area and the presence of emergency vehicles called there on a daily basis. It’s an issue that’s come to light since the Yukon government took over management of the nearby Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.

“It is now too late in the year for the landscaping to proceed. The only available option at this time is to cancel the competition and re-tender at a later date,” City engineer Taylor Eshpeter said.

That means the city will lose the federal cash it had been planning to use. That funding is set to expire in March 2020.

That came as a surprise to Coun. Dan Boyd, who said he was a “little bit baffled” as the information had not been presented to council when members voted to hold off on a decision in July.

Acting city manager Valerie Braga did note the information on the federal funding was available in previous administrative reports while the timelines for the work became clear after staff had looked further into the request for proposal documents.

Boyd said he had thought some of the work that could be done and at the time he had been prepared to request a special meeting to deal with the matter.

“It’s regrettable,” he said.

Coun. Steve Roddick said it’s unfortunate the city will lose the funding, but there doesn’t seem to be any way around it.

Coun. Samson Hartland said the situation was “inevitable,” but offered a little more optimism pointing out there are other funding opportunities the city could look at in the future “when and if” Alexander Street is ready for the work.

As Coun. Laura Cabott pointed out, those who live and work in the area told the city “loud and clear” there are bigger issues that need to be tackled before any landscaping is done.

Cabott said she is looking forward to having the city work with Health and Social Services (HSS) Minister Pauline Frost and department staff.

In August, HSS officials said the department is working on making changes to the exterior of the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter to “create a safe and welcoming space for shelter clients to spend their time outdoors while accessing shelter services.”

That work would be in consultation with businesses on Alexander Street as well as shelter clients and others in the community.

Frost also said there are plans for an interagency committee made up of governments, NGOs and businesses to be struck to work on safety improvements in the neighborhood.

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

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