Yellowknife city councillors have shot down the idea of a temporary work camp in the Kam Lake area meant to house people working on the new Stanton Territorial Hospital.
The proposal was put forward by Clark Builders and Bird Construction, the two companies that have been tasked with building the $300-million facility.
The plan was to build temporary dwellings for as many as 250 people in a lot next to Yellowknife’s correctional centre and the Hall Crescent residential development.
Dave Brothers, vice president of northern operations with Clark Builders, told councillors Tuesday that general contractors had explored all other options for housing workers.
The proposal was officially presented to council on Tuesday afternoon and voted down in the evening with councillors Adrian Bell, Julian Morse, Rommel Silverio and Shauna Morgan opposed.
A number of Hall Crescent residents also spoke against the proposal Tuesday, citing noise, safety and congestion as concerns.
They also claimed to have been caught off guard by the proposal, only finding out about it last week in the form of letters and emails.
Adrian Bell was one of four councillors who voted against the idea. He feared it’s approval would’ve set a dangerous precedent.
“Clark Builders has been an amazing contributor in our community,” he said. “There’s no denying that.
“They’ve been a very responsible corporate citizen but I can’t think of any possible way to minimize the potential economic spinoff benefits to our community than by approving a temporary work camp.
“We’ve seen far too often people moving their offices outside of town, finding ways to fly over and senior levels of government haven’t been able to do anything about it.”
‘This would be a terrible, terrible thing’
Residents, business owners and councillors alike appeared to be caught off guard by news of the proposal last week.
Shortly after letters and emails were circulated, resident Aaron Reid started canvassing the neighbourhood to see how other people in the area felt about the idea.
Within a day, he says 83 people signed on to a petition.
“A lot of people that moved into our development moved there knowing full well that there was a correctional facility right next to us on one side and on the other side, a business/commercial district,” he said.
“It’s actually one of the most peaceful, quiet and family-friendly areas a small family can move into. This would be a terrible, terrible thing to put a temporary work camp with up to 250 people right next to us.
“There’s not one person I talked to in our neighbourhood who thought that was even remotely a good idea.”
What happens now?
From the onset of the public-private (P3) mega-project, contractors have insisted they’ll bring on as many local workers as possible.
But now there’s some concern about how out-of-town workers will be accommodated. Brothers didn’t mince words Tuesday, saying the hospital project would be ‘devastated’ if a worker camp can’t be erected.
“We’re going to hire as many local people as possible,” he said. “These people we’re putting into these facilities will be over and above what’s available here in town.
“If we couldn’t put this in place, the project would probably be devastated. We have to have a facility that will house that many people for the duration of the project.”