Closed signs and barricades block off the defunct Mount McIntyre Ski Bridge over Sumanik Drive in Whitehorse on Oct. 17. A $790,200 contract to repair the Mount McIntyre ski bridge has been awarded to P.S. Sidhu Trucking Ltd. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse council votes to rebuild Mount McIntyre ski bridge despite concerns over height

Cabott was the only council member to vote against the contract at a scarcely-publicized special meeting

A $790,200 contract to repair the Mount McIntyre ski bridge has been awarded to P.S. Sidhu Trucking Ltd.

If all goes according to plan, the repairs to the bridge will be done by Feb. 28 and the crossing reopened in time for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) from March 15 to March 21.

Work is already underway with Sumanik Drive closed between Hamilton Boulevard and the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre Jan. 3 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The rec centre can be accessed by the staircase from the parking lot of the Canada Games Centre.

Whitehorse city council members voted 6-1 to award the contract to the sole bidder on the project at a special meeting of council Dec. 23.

Coun. Laura Cabott was the only member of council to vote against the contract award. She and Coun. Samson Hartland attended the special meeting by conference call with all other members on-hand for the vote.

In a Dec. 31 email Cabott said she supports having a bridge over Sumanik Drive, but the crossing is not high enough for some vehicles to drive under.

The new bridge is being built the same height as its predecessor, which has been struck by vehicles multiple times.

“The proposed bridge is being rushed to maybe be done for the AWG and about six weeks of cross country skiing,” she wrote, adding that city council was informed in September the AWG could go ahead without the bridge, though it would be an inconvenience.

Cabott argued that’s not a good reason to “rush and build a substandard bridge.”

The city also heard from a number of local contractors who suggested a taller bridge could be built cheaper.

“My suggestion was to take the time to build a proper bridge at the proper height (a height that permits vehicles up to the legal maximum),” Cabott wrote. “Yes, it would not have been available for AWGs and the 2019/2020 cross country ski season. But with this new, still too low bridge, it will only be available for a few weeks of the ski season, but Whitehorse will be left with a substandard bridge for years and will likely need to be repaired when the next legal height truck hits it.”

Finally, Cabott stated that though insurance is expected to cover part of the repair cost, the city will also have to pay for part of it. That amount is expected to be $105,000.

The bridge has been out of commission since July when a waste truck collided with it. That marked the most recent of four collisions larger vehicles have had with the crossing in recent years.

The crossing provides a connection between a numbers of the Mount McIntyre ski trails, though alternative routes are available to skiers.

It was initially recommended the bridge be entirely removed before winter due to the additional snow load the season would bring.

It was only after insurance adjuster made a visit to the site following the recommendation to remove it entirely that repairs and reinforcement work was proposed.

Council then voted in October to sole-source the contract to design and oversee the repair work to Morrison Hershfield, which had also completed the design work to repair damage to the bridge in 2017 and had assessed the damage from the waste haul truck this year.

The tender for the actual repair work closed Dec. 18 with P.S. Sidhu being the only contractor to bid.

The decision to award the contract was made at a special meeting. That means the meeting was not advertised or televised the way a standard council meeting would be.

In a statement, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said the city followed its Procedures Bylaw in posting notice of the special meeting at city hall.

The bylaw states: “A notice of the day, hour, and place of the special meeting and the nature of the business to be transacted at the special meeting shall be given at least 24 hours before the time of the meeting by posting a copy of the notice at the municipal office and by leaving a copy of the notice for each member of council at the place to which the member has directed such notices to be sent.”

There is nothing outlined in the bylaw requiring the meeting to be advertised anywhere else. Hence, there was nothing about the meeting highlighted in local media, on the city’s website or any of the city’s social media pages, Dolphin said.

Along with voting to award the repair work to P.S. Sidhu, council approved increasing the total budget for the bridge repair (which includes the design work as well as the repairs) by another $756,026 to $954,026 with that funding coming out of the city’s capital reserve for now.

“It is intended that funding for the repair project will be recovered through the insurance claim,” an administrative report delivered to council at the special meeting stated. “However, at this time the amount of the proceeds of the claim is unknown. In the meantime, in the interests of meeting the AWG timeline, the alternative is for the project to be funded from the City’s capital reserve at the outset, with any funds received from the insurer to be returned to the reserve.”

In a Dec. 24 statement, Mayor Dan Curtis emphasized the importance of the work: “We want to ensure that residents can remain active this winter by being able take advantage of all the wonderful ski trails and that as hosts of the Arctic Winter Games, we offer the best experience to all of the athletes and visitors involved.”

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

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