Yukon government strikes agreement with City of Whitehorse for Two Mile Hill lot

The Yukon government has provided land at the top of Two Mile Hill to the City of Whitehorse for its future operations building.

The Yukon government has provided land at the top of Two Mile Hill to the City of Whitehorse for its future operations building.

Scott Kent, minister of energy, mines and resources, made the announcement on Friday morning in a news release.

The eight-hectare lot, originally held by the Department of Highways and Public Works for a possible future expansion of the Whitehorse airport, will be provided through a long-term lease at a fee of one dollar per year. 

Whitehorse City Manager Christine Smith said the news finally allows the City to move forward with its multi-year project.

“We’re really happy to finally have the decision,” she said this morning.

“We just have to formalize the agreement through a lease, finalize the working with the Yukon government and present it to city council for approval.”

Announced during the 2015 capital budget, the City plans to spend $56 million over the next two years to consolidate many of its existing buildings into two locations: a service building next to city hall and an operations building off Range Road on Two Mile Hill.

The City says the project, called the city’s Building Consolidation Project, should ultimately save money by shuttering old, energy-inefficient buildings and bringing most of its workers together under two roofs, rather than having them scattered in many downtown locations.

The services building would house human resources, parks and community development, corporate services and development services.

The operations building would be the new home for fleet maintenance, waste and water services, utility systems, engineering, operations, transportation maintenance and traffic maintenance.

Just under one-third of this year’s capital budget, or $5 million, has been allocated to the project.

But delays late last year pushed the project’s timeline back.

In late 2014 city council and administration had hoped to have construction of the operations building begin in early 2016 and occupancy planned for late 2017, and the services building ready in early 2018.

During a meeting with the Yukon government in November last year, the City was told there was an issue with the territory’s Financial Administration Act.

The act is written to protect public money from losses in risky investments. It states investments must adhere to specific guidelines. They must be guaranteed by Canada, a province or a bank, or receive the highest rating from at least two recognized security-rating institutions.

At the time, Smith said the Yukon government hadn’t explained what the specific issue with the act was.

Government spokesperson Dan Macdonald later explained the lease needed to go to cabinet first.

As a result of the delay, the operations building is now on track to be completed at some point in 2018, Smith said.

While the lease is being finalized, administration wants to put out a request-for-proposal for the design of the operations building, she added. That will give city council a better idea of costs, she explained.

The future services building downtown, meanwhile, is taking a backseat for the time being.

“That’s the situation we’re in – we’re all still waiting for infrastructure funds to start flowing from the new (federal) government,” Smith said.

“In the meantime we have to do our best and focus on the building that we need the most right now, which is the operations building. The Municipal Services Building (on Fourth Avenue) is on its last legs.”

Smith said the current project is just the first phase of several to come in order to meet all of the City’s infrastructure needs.

“If we want infrastructure in place for the next 20 or 40 years we need a lot more than $56 million,” she said. “You’re looking at more like $90 million.

“That’s the ultimate dream goal to have all our operations organized and centralized.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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