Yukoners share their thoughts on Whitehorse’s capital budget

Concerns include wildlife and wildfire preparedness

The outdoors were top-of-mind for those who spoke during the public hearing for feedback on the capital budget recently released by the City of Whitehorse.

Heather Ashthorn, the executive director of WildWise Yukon, has spoken to council many times in 2018 about using bearproof garbage bins. She said she noticed the budget has no line item for those bins.

Ashthorn said the bins are something she wants to see, either in the capital or operating budget, as well as a commitment from the city to work with WildWise and Environment Yukon on the issue of bear/human conflict.

She said she thinks Whistle Bend is the perfect neighbourhood in which to roll out a program, and that the neighbourhood association there has expressed interest in such a program.

“I think you don’t want to be sitting in those seats if somebody is mauled by a food-conditioned bear within the city. It happens. It’s happened in other jurisdictions. It’s horrifying when it does happen. We can fix this problem before it does,” she said.

Margaret Nefstead, a resident of Riverdale, said she was worried about a lack of provision in the budget for dealing with planning an evacuation of the city.

She said that, walking the trails in her neighbourhood, she often comes across former fires. In one case, she said, she called the fire department about an abandoned fire that had been left smouldering and still burning in underground roots.

She pointed to the fires in Paradise, California, and the fact that Whitehorse has experienced dry summers in recent years.

“I think that we are in danger and it’s very important that the city put expertise and attention and all kinds of thought and care into figuring out the best way for us to get out of here if we need to.”

Bill Klassen, with FireSmart Whitehorse, said that he supported the city’s proposal to spend $200,000 on fuel abatement in 2019. He further suggested moving forward any unspent funds from 2018 fuel reduction (which total $350,000) into 2019.

Keith Lay, with Active Trails Whitehorse, said the group is questioning a $20,000 snow machine for parks and trails.

“We think this seems to be a rather expensive snow machine given that the research indicates that the most expensive gas-powered snow machine ranges around $15,000 or $15,500,” he said.

Lay went on to suggest a Canadian-made, electric-powered snow machine. He said its cost is $20,000, but that it would represent a cost savings over the long term.

Lay also brought up the $75,000 being allocated over the next four years to trail plan implementation.

He cited the 2007 trail plan, which was a 10-year plan to guide trail development over the following decade. A new trail plan has not yet been developed or approved, Lay said. He wanted to know how city staff arrived at a figure of $75,000, and when residents might expect to see the process begin that will lead to a new trail plan for the next 10 years.

Second and third readings of the capital budget are expected to take place Dec. 10.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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