Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis on May 6. Curtis and the rest of city council officially adopted its strategic priorities plan at a meeting on May 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse council sets out its priorities

Much of the work is already underway, the mayor says

Whitehorse city council has officially adopted its to-do list, though many of the initiatives are already well-underway, including emergency planning.

Members approved the strategic priorities document May 21, detailing plans to focus on six major areas.

The document had originally come forward in April, but council asked for revisions to the document.

“There was a desire to see more action items included, and to have the priorities expanded to focus on high-level long-term plans,” Count. Laura Cabott said, reading from the report on the document at council’s May 21 meeting. “In accordance with direction from council, the strategic priorities have been expanded to include more action items and a focus on long-term plans.”

As Mayor Dan Curtis and city manager Linda Rapp told reporters after the meeting, the document was edited to add initiatives in for each city department along with the 32 items outlined under the six major priorities to focus on.

The priorities include the city’s Official Community Plan; emergency preparedness; attainable housing; building consolidation; asset management and the 2020 Arctic Winter Games the city and territory will host from March 15 to 21, 2020.

As Curtis pointed out, much of the work is already underway.

An evacuation plan for each neighbourhood in the city will be released ahead of the Operation Nook emergency exercise in early June. While everything is subject to change in the event of an emergency, Rapp said the plan would include maps for each neighborhood and where residents should go depending on the situation.

The plans developed by the city and territory will be posted to the city’s website, Rapp said.

Meanwhile, Curtis stressed the city and territory is also working on further plans to deal with wildfires and fire smarting. He noted there’s a need for residents, like himself to take personal responsibility in ensuring their property is fire smarted.

Working with Wildland Fire Management, the mayor said he’s “woken up to smell the roses” and is now realizing the work he needs to do at his own home to protect it.

Other action items range from the commissioning of the new operations building under the building consolidation work to selling city owned lots for residential development in Takhini North and Arkell in the effort to have more attainable housing in town.

The development of housing initiatives to support aging in place; development of a city/Yukon government land transfer protocol; drafting of a new OCP; implementing an asset management system and preparing concepts for a new services building are among the many actions listed.

“It provides clear direction to administration,” Rapp said of the document, making it clear that while providing direction, none of the issues outline come as a surprise to city staff that have been part of the meetings where priorities were discussed.

Typically, council begins work to identify its strategic priorities shortly after being sworn-in to office.

Rapp said it’s an ideal time to set the direction for the coming years.

As initiatives outlined in the plan are accomplished further efforts may come forward, Curtis said.

Addressing the climate change emergency that was declared during Caribou Days in Old Crow and has been declared by other communities and organizations outside the territory, Curtis said he expects more organizations will do the same and it can get the conversation going. While the city hasn’t made any such declaration, he said, “we recognize we’re in trouble” and noted the importance of taking action and leading by example.

The full report on council’s strategic priorities is available on the city’s website.

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

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