Editorial - Public Works needs a new home, get it done

The proposed City Operations Centre needs to happen.

The Public Works department needs, well, a place to work for the public. That’s plain, there’s no way they can provide services spread across the city.

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It’s also plain that the current Public Works facility doesn’t work. You can’t have a facility where nobody can work, that’s pointless. Right now, nobody can work there, the contamination in the ground has made it a safety risk. The city has been putting off the problem for a decade and now we have the council that has to deal with the problem. There are a lot of valid arguments for keeping an older facility active, but they fall apart when that facility is completely unusable.

So why is it so difficult for council to sign off on the project?

It’s the same reason every council has put off okaying the project. It’s a multi-million dollar facility, and it’s not really one that the public will have a ton of interaction with. Even something like the Gallagher Centre was a contentious project, but at least it’s something that, in the wake of its construction, the city can point to and say is a draw for people. It’s something that voters interact with on a regular basis. The City Operations Centre is not a facility that most of Yorkton will actually visit regularly. It’s entirely possible someone could live their entire life in the city without going into the Public Works building, the Parks department, or any of the other, more background city facilities. Council would rather get out of having to build it.

That was clear in the discussion at City Council on Dec. 9, as council members tried to see a way to avoid spending the money that is required for the facility. They sought every avenue to try to find a way out of the massive infrastructure spend this represents. Director of Public Works Trent Mandzuk had to justify every part of the facility, to his increasing frustration, as council members searched in vain for a way, any way, that they could get around the crisis that Public Works is in without such a massive project. It became clear that, like it or not, this has to happen.

Everyone uses city streets and uses city services, and the people who provide those services need a place to work. The current solution is temporary at best - it involves temporary construction trailers, which will barely be good enough for the duration of construction, let alone any longer if the project gets delayed.

It’s also good to give credit to administration to find a way to pay for the facility without increasing taxes. This isn’t a cheap building – $14 million has to be borrowed in order to build it – but they’re also prepared for the inevitable, and money has been saved to put the plan into practice. An increased tax bill would probably make it less palatable to a lot of people, but to have a build of this magnitude built into the plans of the city is a rare thing. The homework has been done.

The project has been sent to tender, but it could easily be killed after tender comes back. It’s time for council to bite the bullet and get this facility built.

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