Yukon government deaf to Dawson

DAWSON CITY The territory has a stranglehold on Dawson when it comes to community planning, say current and former town officials.

DAWSON CITY

The territory has a stranglehold on Dawson when it comes to community planning, say current and former town officials.

Dawson’s hospital facility, the placer mine along Dome Road and the paving of Front Street are all examples of projects where citizens’ concerns and the municipal government have been ignored, they say.

“The government loves to come to town and write cheques,” said former mayor John Steins, explaining that, in the last year alone, the territory has given Dawson almost $100 million in project funding.

“However, when it comes to listening to people and specific quality-of-life issues, there’s silence.”

When the government decided last year to place its new hospital facility in downtown Minto Park, there was an outcry from residents.

People were worried the design of the building wouldn’t mesh with the historic Dawson Museum next door. They also didn’t want to see a popular recreation spot disappear and festival space for the Dawson City Music Festival encroached upon.

“People are OK with the idea of an improved health facility,” said Steins. “Who doesn’t like millions of dollars of infrastructure pumped into their community?

“The question is, shouldn’t we have a say in the appearance of our town and where things should go?”

People aren’t happy about how the hospital site was selected, but at least the government made some concessions with that project, said Councillor Wayne Potoroka.

The government is offering to build another park elsewhere and has taken small steps to incorporate some people’s concerns, such as not putting any windows on the north side of the building to reduce noise, he said.

But mention the Slinky mine on Dome Road and Potoroka bristles.

“The government hasn’t been there at all to help interpret this information,” said Potoroka, referring to the complex mining licensing and legislation that led the government and the Yukon Territorial Water Board to allow Darrell Carey to placer mine in the middle of Dawson.

“It would have been nice to have their assistance on this one.”

Only the town’s community administrative officer Jeff Renaud has had contact with the departments of Community Services and Energy, Mines and Resources, but even that communication has been seriously limited, said Potoroka.

“It’s not like the minister of EMR is phoning me at home, it’s definitely not happened,” he said.

It’s bad enough the government has ignored residents’ e-mails and phone calls, but as a council member he expected at least there would have been more joint communication on the issue.

Even Mayor Peter Jenkins, who spent 10 years as a territorial MLA, served in cabinet and was once Premier Dennis Fentie’s deputy, is quick to criticize the government these days.

At a council meeting Monday, he lamented the town’s authority over the Slinky mine has been “neutered” by the water board and territorial government.

The government is ignoring the town’s concerns over its roads being ripped up by the miner and his decision to ignore proper development permits, said Jenkins.

“Our hands, at this point, are tied.”

It’s not uncommon for the territory to overstep its authority, said Steins. It happened several times while he was in office.

“One time, the town had a meeting about the new Yukon Housing apartments and (MLA Steve Nordick) just invited himself to it,” he said.

“Then he kept telling us the government’s plans were etched in stone and that their plans were the ones going to happen.”

It was the same thing with the paving of Front Street.

When the territory did a consultation about the project, they never asked where to place the apron on Front Street and whether it fit the historical context of the town, said Steins.

“At that meeting, Nordick just told everyone that it wasn’t the place to talk about it,” he said.

“An MLA should have open ears for everybody – it’s his job to hear what constituents have to say, to not dictate what the appropriate venue is.”

As for the Slinky mine, Steins isn’t surprised how the government has dealt with the issue so far.

“YTG is obviously asleep on the issue, as is the (Klondike) MLA,” said Steins.

“With anything controversial they take the ostrich head-in-the-sand technique and hope it will go away.”

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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