A request by Whitehorse city staff to reallocate funds for the Robert Service Campground ignited some debate among council members at the Dec. 4 standing committees meeting.
Council had allotted $125,000 in the 2017 capital budget for repairs to infrastructure at the campground. “Basic repairs” were completed to “ensure operation of the campground washrooms for the 2017 operating season” for $35,000, said Doug Hnatiuk, manager of parks and community development for the city. However, the remainder of the money remains unspent.
“The city recognizes the importance of the Robert Service Campground,” Hnatiuk said. “Given the current state of the existing washroom and office facility, the city proposes significant renovations and facility construction to improve the appearance and functionality of the campground. Consideration is being given to all suitable operational needs of a high profile municipal campground, including the overnight camping opportunities and provisions for enhanced day use.”
Staff would like the city to change the scope of the project so that they can use part of the remaining $90,000 to hire a consultant to do a concept design for a new campground facility. Remaining funds would be used for infrastructure development, said Hnatiuk.
Not everyone was pleased with the idea.
“We’re spending 90 grand on a campground? What … is it going to be Disneyland or something?” asked Coun. Rob Fendrick.
“When I first read this, it really bothered me,” said Coun. Betty Irwin. “We had $90,000 for a few people to pick up hammers and saws to (fix thing up) and now I see ‘Oh, we’re going to hire a consultant?’ Why not use that money to do the actual work?”
Mayor Dan Curtis took issue with Irwin’s statement, however.
“It does have serious infrastructure concerns,” said Curtis. “We’re trying to make it safe and accessible to the public… The infrastructure has deteriorated.”
“It’s more than taking hammers and shovels to fix this.”
Coun. Dan Boyd said he wanted to know how much it would cost for the consultant.
“I think we need to be a little bit clearer about what we’re doing here,” he said.
Hnatiuk said that was unknown, because nothing has gone to tender, but he guessed it would be between $30,000 and $40,000.
“I’m of the mind that we should give you $30,000 then and rebudget the remainder,” Boyd said.
Director of development services Mike Gau said that was not practical, because if a consultant cost more than $30,000 they just would have to come back to ask for more. Additionally, he said, a precise amount of money was not what council was being asked to vote on. The question before council was whether or not to change the scope of the project so that the unused money — which was already allocated for the campground — could be redistributed for this purpose.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu agreed with staff and said that the money had already been budgeted for the campground so it wasn’t as if “they were having to go looking for it.”
“I trust (that the staff) are not going to spend a penny more than they need to (for the consultant),” she said.
Curteanu called the campground “a gem in the city that just needs shining up.”
The campground is privately run, but the actual land and infrastructure is city-owned. The lease for that property expires Dec. 31, 2017, said city spokesperson Myles Dolphin.
Contact Lori Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org
CORRECTION: This story originally gave an incorrect date for the expiry of the campground lease. The lease expires Dec. 31, 2017.