North

Yukon gov't still weighing options for Ross River school, in need of repairs

'The advice is to do what's been done in the past, and go forward [with repairs]. I am ... skeptical about that approach', says Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn. An engineering report has recommended more major repairs to the building.

Minister of Public Works Richard Mostyn still considering options, including portable classrooms

'We consider the school safe to occupy from a structural point of view,' an engineers' report says. (CBC)

Yukon's minister of public works says he hasn't decided whether or not to proceed with repairs to the Ross River school this summer.

Williams Engineering examined the school after the territory was rocked by two large earthquakes earlier this month. The school was closed for several days after the quakes, for inspection.

"We consider the school safe to occupy from a structural point of view," the engineers' report said.

But it also repeated a recommendation made after Williams Engineering examined the school in March, saying, "we strongly recommend steps be put in place to have the building re-levelled in the near future."

The report says that work should take place over the summer, at an estimated cost of $1.2 million.

Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn says he's still waiting for more information, but said that repairing the school may not be the best option.

"The advice is to do what's been done in the past, and go forward. I am, as a newcomer to this whole business, skeptical about that approach," he said.

Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn says he's still waiting for more information, but said that repairing the school - again - may not be the best option. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

"I have to balance the needs of the community, and the students and the staff and the school, with the long term needs of the territory, and the finances. So I have to look at all the options. And I haven't got all that information yet."

Mostyn acknowledges "the clock is ticking", and a decision must be made soon.

He says one option that may be most cost-effective is to bring in portable classrooms as a temporary measure.

Mostyn said he will commission another geotechnical engineering firm to examine the ground conditions under the building with "fresh eyes".

"That's part of the information gathering — is to have a review of what's been done in the past, and maybe there are options we haven't considered," he said.

Mostyn says a geotechnical examination cannot be done until all the frost has left the ground.

Engineers had also recommended that in addition to the structural repairs, refrigeration units be installed in the crawl space under the building at a cost of $500,000. 

Mostyn says department officials have told him the department spent $3 million on mitigating structural permafrost issues since 2012, with $1.9 million spent on major repairs in 2015.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated the Yukon government spent $3 million on engineering reports plus and additional $1.9 million on repairs. In fact the government has spent $3 million total.
    May 30, 2017 1:24 PM CT

About the Author

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.

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