'Was it that urgent?' Yellowknife hospital work camp still shows no signs of life

More than a month after its expected appearance, a much-ballyhooed camp for tradespeople needed to build Yellowknife's new hospital remains nowhere to be seen.

A month after it was expected, the much-ballyhooed camp is nowhere to be seen

The site proposed for the camp, behind Yellowknife's Fieldhouse, remains devoid of activity. In June, the company said the site required significant work. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

It caused a public outcry among residents of one Yellowknife neighborhood.

It spurred more than one hurried city council meeting.

And it was couched by the developers as a make-or-break factor in ensuring construction of the N.W.T. government's new $300-million Stanton Territorial Hospital is completed on time for December 2018.

But more than a month since its expected appearance, the temporary Yellowknife work camp for up to 150 hospital tradespeople has yet to show any signs of life.

"We're very curious because we're getting to the end of the construction season for outdoor and we don't see anything," says Jenny Bruce, the president of the Yellowknife Hotel Association.

As of Thursday, the selected site for the camp — a lot behind Yellowknife's Fieldhouse parking lot — remained empty and devoid of activity.  

"The first question it raises is, was it that urgent?" says Bruce.

Company said no camp would 'devastate' hospital project 

In late June, representatives from one of the companies building the hospital, Clark Builders, told Yellowknife city councillors that the camp needed to be in place by August.

Despite two years of preparation, the company had not been able to secure enough hotel rooms for all of the roughly 300 tradespeople expected to join the hospital work site.

Dave Brothers of Clark Builders told Yellowknife city councillors in May that without a camp, the Yellowknife hospital project would be 'devastated.' (City of Yellowknife)

At an earlier city council meeting in May, when Clark Builders originally proposed to locate the camp near a neighbourhood in Yellowknife's Kam Lake area, Dave Brothers, the company's vice president of Northern operations, said "the [hospital] project would probably be devastated" without the camp.

Under further questioning from councillor Adrian Bell, Brothers elaborated that Clark and its partner, Bird Construction, would lose out on money if they did not complete the hospital on time.

Brothers could not be reached for comment Thursday about whether a camp is still planned.

The Fieldhouse location was not Clark Builder's first choice when it came back to city council with other options after residents of Hall Crescent complained the Kam Lake plan was rushed and would disturb their neighbourhood. The Fieldhouse location would require "significant" site preparation work, though no blasting, according to the company. 

Ball remains in Clark Builder's court

The City of Yellowknife says the decision on whether to proceed with the camp remains in Clark Builder's court — and has remained so for months. 

The City of Yellowknife says the decision to proceed with a camp remains in Clark Builder's court. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Jeff Humble, the city's director of lands and planning, said the city has been waiting since mid-July for information from Clark Builders that would allow the city to issue a development permit.

The delay with the camp also raises another question.

"Is the [hospital] build so behind that it will add to the cost?" wonders Bruce.

Andrew Livingstone, a senior cabinet communications advisor at the N.W.T. press secretary's office, said the framing of the hospital remains on schedule to be completed by late October or early November.

While construction is expected to be complete by December 2018, the move-in phase will be gradual and is expected to begin in 2019.

The N.W.T. government says that despite the absence of a camp, the framing of the new hospital remains on schedule. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)


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