This building across from Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, photographed in Whitehorse on Apr. 30, will be repurposed into part of the city’s new fire hall. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse fire hall bid comes in over budget

Council is considering awarding work to Ketza

A nearly $3.2-million contract could be awarded to Ketza Construction to build the new downtown fire hall in Whitehorse.

Wayne Tuck, senior projects engineer with the city, brought forward the proposed contract award at council’s April 29 meeting. He also recommended increasing the city’s budget for the project by $400,000 after Ketza’s bid came in higher than expected. It was the lowest of two bids submitted, with the other coming from Clark Builders.

Additional funds will cover paving, engineering, drainage, landscaping and the $150,000 required contingency. The extra cash will come from what the city saved on the operations building, with Ketza’s winning construction bid of $39 million coming in $2 million under budget. The operations building is expected to open later this year.

Plans for the fire hall include renovating and adding on to a city warehouse in the Motorways area between Second Avenue and Front Street at Black Street. It’s part of the city’s overall building consolidation work. The operations building is the first part of that project.

The new fire hall will replace the current station next to city hall, which is planned to be demolished to make way for the new services building (also part of the consolidation work).

Tuck suggested the low number of bids that came in for the fire hall is due in part to the high number of construction projects underway and planned in the city and throughout the territory. A price tag that’s 14 per cent higher than originally estimated represents the current market, he told council.

“We feel this is not unreasonable based on what we’re seeing,” he said.

Coun. Laura Cabott countered the marketplace situation should have already been factored in to the estimates. As Coun. Samson Hartland pointed out, a lot of the construction in Whitehorse has been initiated by the city itself.

The situation highlights the need for an asset management plan, he said.

Tuck told council cancelling the contract to redesign and tender the project would not likely save the city any money with construction costs expected to rise down the road.

He also informed council repurposing the existing warehouse makes the project less expensive than building an entirely new structure. Efforts have been made to scale back the project where possible.

“The building footprint itself is about 400 square metres and when we add in the inner second floor it brings it to about 600 square metres,” Tuck said. “It had an expanded entranceway at the front and more offices and (was) expanded at the rear. When we looked at that we felt it had to go, so we made a bunch of changes and cut back in the design.”

The end result is a building that will be “bare bones”, but is expected to meet the city’s needs for the next 50 years.

Considering further changes, he said, would have a significant impact on both the fire hall project and the new services building “given that federal and Yukon government funding for that project has a strict completion date.”

More than $8 million in funding from Ottawa and $2.6 million from the territory was recently announced for the construction of the new services building.

The money must be spent by March 2023.

“The timing of this project is critical,” Tuck said.

Council will vote on the contract May 6.

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

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