Dawson City, Yukon Friday, May 26, 2000

Dawson Moms pose with their babies at a recent gathering to celebrate the new (or nearly new) borns in the town. Photo by Madeleine Gould

Feature Stories

Dawson's Municipal Projects Explained
Complaint Spurs Police to Check Voters' List
RCMP Hit the Road
MP Greets Dawson Graduates
Practicing for Disaster
Kelley Aitken: Dancing With Doubt
Liberal Government Moves to Shore Up Mining
The Rafters Set Out
RSS Wins Website Award
Editorial: Moving Another Building

Welcome to the May 26th on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our May 23rd hard copy edition. Getting a subscription (see our home page) is the only way you'll ever see it all.

Dawson's Municipal Projects Explained

by Dan Davidson


Interior work continues on the renovations of the city hall/ fire hall complex in its new location on Front Street. Photo by Dan Davidson

The estrangement between Dawson's municipal council and the Klondike's MLA became a little more heated this month with the publication of Peter Jenkins' Open Letter to the community in regards to Dawson's current list of municipal infrastructure projects.

Jenkins explained the move, which is unusual for an MLA, as having been prompted by "a number of my constituents (who) are expressing alarm and concern about what the City of Dawson is doing."

In order to address their concerns he requested that the City office provide him with full budgetary details of five projects, including projected costs, expenses to date, details of all tenders, total estimated costs and time lines for completion.

Council members were flabbergasted when it first received the letter, but took it that the MLA was striking back for their criticism of his election campaign claims a month ago. The publication of the missive came about a week later in the Klondike Sun, under the general heading of "Question Period", a column which Jenkins has agreed to provide to the local paper.

Mayor Glenn Everitt and the other members of council have all been quite clear in saying that they do not see their connection to their constituents as something that has to be filtered through the MLA's office. While they are willing to provide responses to all questions about capital projects, Everitt says Jenkins will get the information at the same time as everyone else does.

There are some items, Everitt says, which cannot be answered at this time because the tenders for the projects have not yet been let. Many of the questions have already been dealt with in a series of articles by this reporter, dating back over the last year. In all of what follows there is only one completely new piece of information.

Dawson's recent transformation to cable television was budgeted at $1.2 million. This was funded by a $100,000 loan to the company from the city and a $300,000 grant from YTG. In addition, the city took out a $900,000 loan from CIBC. The project actually came in for $1,170,000. The borrowed money will be paid back out of revenue from the service on a payment schedule which was discussed in public and was part of the television referendum vote before it actually began. The projection was 5-7 years.

The item that is over budget, at $2 million, as has been reported several times previously (October 1999), is the firehall/city hall/city works building relocation and renovation (often called the 3CM Project). Some of the over run, which now amounts to 30% (or $500,000 over the original $1.5 million budget), was due to environmental cleanup costs, some to difficulties with the design and construction of the original building, some with the cost of a mechanical and heating system to run two buildings, and some with a federal requirement to upgrade a new lift system to full elevator status.

The lack of easy access by seniors has been one of the constant complaints about city hall since it was first built.

"We did not got into debt to go over budget," said Everitt, noting that previous surpluses and assistance from YTG made the project feasible. It should be possible to move in come mid-July.

The planned renovations to the Bonanza Recreation Centre have undergone a number of changes over the years. Everitt says that the original budget, which dates back to when he was a councillor during the Jenkins' administration, was $14 million. A trimmed down later version would have cost $11 million. Neither of these got further than the preliminary drawing stage.

"The actual budget of the current rec centre and pool project is $8.3 million," Everitt said. "That's $2.2 million for the pool and $6.1 million for the multi-use centre with the gymnasium, etc."

At the time of this interview only about $148,000 had been spent, but more will be spent very soon as the construction season kicks in. Indeed, a $74,000 tender for demolition and site work was let just this week at a public meeting.

Everitt still maintains that the pool itself will be ready to swim in on July first, although the rest of the construction surrounding the facility will take until September. The rec centre will come together in a series of construction bursts timed to minimize disruption to users so that the whole thing will be done by Sept. 2001.

Some events normally held in the hockey arena in the summer have had to be relocated for this year, but those organizations had a year's notice.

Dawsonites will recall that there was a lot of needless hair pulling over the possible loss of time for the hockey season in the fall of 1999, but the ice was ready as usual and the season did not suffer.

"I found it extremely interesting that Mr. Jenkins would even ask a question about water and sewer," Everitt said. "We are currently in negotiation and discussion with EPCOR (as previously reported here). There will be information released throughout the summer as the plans proceed.

The city is still paying off sewer and water projects in the north end and south on the Klondike Highway which were initiated during the Jenkins years and continued during Art Webster's partial term of office, which eventually became Everitt's first partial term.

Everitt has already met with Premier Pat Duncan to give the Liberal government an overview of the proposed private/public partnership on water and sewer (see last issue). This meeting also dealt with the Liberal pledge to continue the transfer of dollars for recreation promised earlier by the NDP government. The total amount granted soared to $10.4 million and was presented to the community by former Government Leader Piers McDonald in October 1999.

"In terms of our financial audited statements for this year, the city again produced a surplus," Everitt said, "as has been already published." This information will be tabled and accepted at the next council meeting on May 15 and will be published in the Klondike Sun, as they have for most of the last 11 years, later in the month.

Everitt was also anxious to remind people that the town's utility bills were reduced in the 1999 budget and that the 2000 budget reduced taxes.

While there have been some problems with the tender documents which the city has used on its projects, council has gone the extra mile, as at a meeting on May 10, to make sure that all sides understand the process involved in the choices that are being made.

"Our tendering process," Everitt said, "is applauded in many communities and we have the strongest local hire policy there is. We intend to see that all these projects utilize as much local expertise and workers as possible."

Everitt said that since the publication of the letter, Jenkins has also been on radio and his comments there have prompted many calls of support to the town offices from people who "were shocked that he would do this."

He thinks part of the problem is the fact that the regular biweekly television broadcasts of the council meetings had to be stopped last summer when they were no longer technically feasible.

"We are planning to hold up to date meetings as soon as it is technically possible," he said, and the new cable television system should ensure that these are cleaner and more reliable than they ever have been in the past.

"The city will not use a middleman to provide information to the public," Everitt said. "They can come to the office and ask, they can attend open council meetings. We will broadcast these again as soon as we can. We allow delegations to come in and we close the door if they want to talk in confidence with us.

"There's no line of communication which goes council to Peter Jenkins to residents. Our communication is direct."

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Complaint Spurs Police to Check Voters' List

by Jason Small, Whitehorse Star
Used with permission

The RCMP are checking the list - the voters' list.

The police are investigating the voters' list for last month's territorial election, in the riding of Klondike.

Peter Jenkins, the man who won that election, has complained about names that he feels shouldn't have been on the voters' list.

"I just reported two of the voters that I knew full well that shouldn't have been there," Jenkins said in an interview this morning from his Dawson City home.

Jenkins, the Yukon Party's sole MLA, complained about the two names before election day.

Jenkins said the two people on the list moved out of the territory about three years ago, but were added to the voters' list during this year's campaign.

Jenkins made the complaint himself.

The concern over the names was reported to the Elections Yukon office in Whitehorse.

Chief Electoral Officer Pat Michael then decided the matter should be handed over to the RCMP.

The RCMP have been investigating the matter since then. The officer in charge of the investigation was unavailable for comment today.

According to the Yukon's Elections Act, it's illegal for anyone to apply to be included on the voters' list in a riding in which they do not live.

It's also illegal for anyone to make a false statement to get a name added to the voters' list that should not be there.

According to the act, any person guilty of breaking the election laws could receive a fine of no more than $5,000 or no more than a year in jail, or both.

Jenkins won the seat on April 17 over Liberal Stuart Schmidt. Jenkins had 424 votes and Schmidt garnered 397. New Democrat Aedes Scheer was third with 249.

For an election result to be overturned, it must be proved to the Yukon Supreme Court that there were enough questionable voters to change the winner.

Jenkins complained about two voters on the list. He won by 27.

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RCMP Hit the Road

by Dan Davidson


These Sasquatch bikes, provided by Tim Gunther's Circle Cycle, will be a familiar sight on Dawson's streets this summer. Photo by Dan Davidson

After several years of being used to a summer rider on the Force in Dawson, locals and visitors will now have to adjust to a new type of mounted Mountie.

Two members of the Dawson detachment will be hitting the streets in a new way this summer, mounted on a pair of Sasquatch bicycles. Don't expect the spandex-clad bike patrols that you see in some cities down south, but do expect officers to turn up in places where the patrolling has been a little thin in the past.

The roving cyclists expect to be able to patrol the lower reaches of the dyke, actually catch a whiff of that offending substance wafting on the breeze from the Front Street gazebo, see the town in a new way that falls in between a ride in a cruiser and a foot patrol.

It's not all for enforcement, of course. In their presentation to city council Constable Paul Brown and Sgt. Steve Gleboff indicated that they also saw this as a way of expanding personal contacts with people on the street and with business owners.

Not that the bike riders are likely to be as popular as Justin and his rider have been for the last several years, but it's still likely that some new and unexpected conversations may occur.

The leaders of the community have taken the project to heart. The Dawson City Chamber of Commerce kicked in $2500 to help purchase the bicycles and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in council added $500.

Council was expecting to be asked for money to assist in setting up the program, but the Mounties were only at the meeting to ask for moral support.

Gleboff said the detachment was covering equipment and uniforms from its own budget, but did admit under probing from Mayor Everitt that this was going to leave his discretionary funding rather thin. Council members indicated that they felt the town ought to contribute to the program, which they thought was a great idea, and told Gleboff to keep track of his spending. Council is willing to find some money for this program if it turns out to be needed later on.

The detachment, in cooperation with the Robert Service School, is also pursuing its free bike program again this year. The school's shop classes have retrofitted a number of derelict bikes provided by the detachment and painted them up in bright colours. These will be left at various locations around town, free for the use of anyone who needs them, with the only proviso being that you leave them behind for someone else when you're done with them.

Past experience has shown that this program drastically reduces the incidence of bicycle theft during the summer months.

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MP Greets Dawson Graduates

by Dan Davidson


M.P. Louise Hardy (first person in the second row from the front) poses with most of this year's grade 12 class at the Robert Service School. Photo by Dan Davidson

Louise Hardy would have liked to be able to attend the May 27 Commencement Exercises at the Robert Service School, but the Yukon 's M.P. had promised to be at another set of graduation exercises on that night.

So she took advantage of her attendance at the Dawson City International Gold Show to bring greetings from the House of Commons and set of special certificates for Dawson's grade 12 class, which she presented to them on May 18.

The House of Commons certificates, along with a personal letter from Hardy, came enclosed in a green presentation folder, also stamped with the House of Commons logo in gold.

Commencement Exercises will take place here the day after final school examinations. The ceremony was held in the Palace Grand Theatre at 11 a.m. on Saturday, with a banquet to follow at the school at 6 p.m. See next issue for details.

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Practicing for Disaster

by Dan Davidson


The final "victim" is removed from the stricken van by the paramedics and firefighters. Photo by Dan Davidson

May 13 was not one of the nicest spring days that the Klondike has produced so far this year. It started out grey and unpromising, and moved back and forth between sunshine and light snow flurries, which a bit of intermittent sleet thrown in for good measure.

But then, you can't always plan to have good weather for a disaster.

A disaster, or rather, a series of disasters, was just what they had staged out on the tailings piles beside the new ball park. It was the first training exercise in which the Dawson City Fire Department, the Klondike Valley Fire Department, the Ambulance Crew and the Emergency Measures Organization were thrown together to see how they could work, and organizers say it was a success.

Rob Robinson, a training coordinator for the emergency measures organization, said that the crews spent part of the morning simply tearing smashed up vehicles (left overs from last summer's demolition derby) apart to get the feel of the tools they use and demonstrate various options.

After a morning spent covering the theory of an disaster and practicing some moves, the teams participated in several joint activities to test how well they could put it all together.

In the first exercise, a rolled van leaking gasoline was found to contain two victims who had to be extracted by peeling the top off the van and also working through the back doors.

The trick to this exercise was that a third victim was found thrown from the van, closer to the highway, and he had to be dealt with as well.

The exercise included a perimeter sweep, assessments of both the vehicle and the ejected passenger, vehicle stabilization and recovery of the victims. This involved coordination by EMO personnel, possible fire suppression work by the firefighters, and patient care by the ambulance crews, with the firefighters acting in a back-up capacity.

According to Michael Swainson, a paramedic from Whitehorse who helped with the training and debriefed the exercise, the rescues were all handled quite well, but the team took too long to deal with the third victim, and he died.

The point of these exercises, however, is not to do everything right the first time. At the conclusion of each scenario, Swainson talked through the procedures as he had observed them, noting the pluses and minuses and calling for analysis from the team members. These debriefings were as valuable as the actual physical practice.

As for the inclement weather, it was probably a blessing in disguise. All the volunteers were dressed in full, heavy, turnout gear, and if it had been at all warm that day they would have been sweating buckets.

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Kelley Aitken: Dancing With Doubt

by Dan Davidson


Kelley Aitken enjoys some afternoon sun on the lawn at Berton House. Photo by Dan Davidson

Although she was what she calls "a complete bookworm" as a kid, Kelley Aitken didn't emerge from school as a full blown writer.

"I always wanted to write," she says as we listen to the sun shower pattering on the Berton House porch roof. "I read voraciously and knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I had a more obvious talent towards visual art. More obvious in that it shows up as a visual thing.

"So I went to university (at Guelph) for an undergraduate degree in visual arts."

This provided a means to make a living and also be artistic. Without a push it might have been enough.

The writing was waiting, though, and it came out the year her father died, the year she wrote her first short story.

"I'd written journals and poetry up until then, but I hadn't committed myself - probably out of fear and insecurity. I didn't think I was smart enough - articulate enough to be a writer.

"I think that when there is an emotional buildup sometimes you just barge past those insecurities.

"I think the life of a creative person is just one long dance with doubt, and you really have to do battle with creating the necessary confidence. It's a funny thing; you have to have confidence and at the same time you have to be released and spontaneous - there are all these dichotomies to being a good writer, or to just writing, period."

It's a point well taken. Lots of writing instruction focuses on silencing the internal editor so that the words can get past it, then turning it back on later in order to do revisions. Aitken says that her editor has to be silenced regularly.

Writer's block, she speculates, could be the result of letting the editor's voice get too loud, "letting it get between you and your material."

"I think most writers, even when they are blocked, have material; they just don't have access to it because there's a lot of static in the way."

She says there have been times when she's produced work that she thought no one would want to read. Another time, she tells an English 12 class a few days after this interview, she had to abandon 150 pages of manuscript after having tried to let the story flow freely, too freely as it turned out.

Her first book of short fiction, Love in a Warm Climate (with a cover by the other Kelley Aitken, the artist), collected together a batch of stories which happened to share the Ecuadorian setting that will be the main backdrop for her first novel, but that doesn't mean she always writes about Ecuador. There are other stories, essays, and some poems, some of which she is even now arranging for another collection of material.

However, her trips to that other culture, combined with time spent in the Philippines as a child, confirmed in her the notion that writers are observers of culture, and it was even easier to take a step back and observe when she was in a foreign country.

She's doing somewhat the same thing in Dawson, making lots of observations from the observer's blind of Berton House, getting involved in the community enough to get a taste of what it is like.

"I also wanted to go with Berton's idea," she says, "which was to introduce southern Canadian writers to the north. I'm not a hermit and I didn't want to be completely isolated from people."

Aitken has lived in a variety of places within Canada and elsewhere, but currently makes her home in Toronto, with her partner, who is a part time teacher and political activist. She doesn't find the city life very inspiring as far as story matter is concerned. For her, it is the countryside, the rural life, which provides stimulus.

The other general theme in her work is relationships, which could cover person to person, person to environment or person to culture. The stories in her collection, as well as her essay work, seem to explore all three strands.

The Berton House link to her novel is that a friend of the central character dies of hypothermia while in the North. The shock is such that when her sister subsequently goes missing in the Ecuadorian jungle, Hannah just has to go and find her.

Both of these sequences require an on-the-ground familiarity with their settings, so much so that Aitken knows she will have to spend more time than she has so far in the jungle before she can write of it in a way she will find convincing.

Those who have read the two part excerpt already published in the Klondike Sun might disagree with her about her work being convincing, but Kelley Aitken has to dance with the doubt a little, take the lead, and direct her muse where she wants it to go, while at the same time leaving the characters and the story room to evolve.

Her time at Berton House has, she says, been a real boon to that process.

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Liberal Government Moves to Shore Up Mining

by Dan Davidson


Premier Pat Duncan addresses the morning crowd at the Dawson City International Gold Show. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Liberal government of Premier Pat Duncan held out a conciliatory olive branch to the mining industry at the Dawson City International Gold Show on Friday morning.

During her speech to the delegates the Premier announced that funding had been increased by a quarter million dollars to the Yukon Mining Incentives Program for this mining season.

The program, "promotes and enhances mineral prospecting, exploration and development activities in the Yukon" by providing "prospectors and junior mining companies with a portion of the risk capital required to locate and explore mineral deposits" according to a YTG press release.

Said Duncan, who had spent the first part of her speech establishing her bonafides as a sometime Klondike resident and a person with a background and interest in mining, "The government is demonstrating its commitment to the Yukon mining industry by including an increase in funding to the Yukon Mining Incentives Program in the 2000-01 budget. This means there will be over half a million dollars available for this year's projects."

The increase in funding was, she said, a response to demands from the industry.

"The Yukon Mining Incentives Program is very popular. We received many high quality applications this year. To accommodate the large number of applications, the government has earmarked an additional $250,000 for this program."

Duncan also announced that already this year 30 prospectors and junior meaning companies have tapped a total of $469,000 from YMIP, in amounts ranging from $9,000 to $20,000. YMIP will allow between 50% and 100% of approved expenses, depending on the type of activity.

"The Yukon Mining Incentives Program has," Duncan added, "aided in several new discoveries. An investment of $442,000 in Yukon Mining Incentive Program funding has already helped generate $11.7 million in advanced exploration work on 20 properties."

In addition to this announcement, Duncan also said that she was requesting that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs extend the term of Al Kapty as chair of the Yukon Placer Committee until the end of 2001.

"It will be critical, during the review of the YEA, to have the continuing benefit of Al's experience and leadership."

While the ballroom of the Oddfellows Hall was full of people waiting to hear what the government leader had to say, there were, as miner Norm Ross pointed out, only a dozen or so people who were working placer miners at the breakfast meeting. He said that those numbers told a story about hard times and lack of certainty in the industry.

In greeting the delegates earlier Mayor Glen Everitt said he thought a key part of any discussions over this weekend should be a willingness on the part of legislators to listen, not just speak.

Everitt invited all speakers which followed to avoid wasting time taking shots at each other, a pointless exercise which does nothing, he said, to actually address the problems of the industry.

"Nothing very positive ever came that helped that industry once they left the microphone. We do have some of the decision makers in this room today that have the ability to listen and respond to it."

Chief Darren Taylor welcomed the delegates on the behalf of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in.

MLA Peter Jenkins spoke with feeling about the troubled times in the mining industry. It was his opinion that uncertainty over government intentions and regulations was the biggest issue that needed to be resolved in order to bring the industry back to good health.

"Now that the umbilical cord is firmly reattached between the Yukon Liberals and the Federal Liberals, let's hope some substance flows thought that umbilical cord and we can get on and move forward with the process of putting in place appropriate regulations that will enhance this industry and make it why it was a few years ago."

Jenkins raised a round of laughter when he suggested that a new industry could be created in the Yukon if a regulation were brought in to state that all the paper used in mining paperwork had to originate in the territory.

Member of Parliament Louise Hardy also brought greetings to the delegates, pledging to work with the new government. Dawson City, she said, is a community which always inspires a lot of interest in the House of Commons.

"People want to know about Dawson City. They want to know what it's like here. They want to know how to get here."

It was, she said, an honour to be invited to the trade show.

"To be in the same room with people who are so crucial to the financial comfort of the Yukon is something that I take very seriously."

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The Rafters Set Out

by Dan Davidson


Puddle rafters. Photo by Dan Davidson

It takes the right combination of setting, opportunity, materials and daring to go puddle rafting. These boys found all of it on a Saturday afternoon when the machines were tearing up the former site of Dawson's fire hall and scattering the remains about.

Take two sheets of wood. As the filing for the sandwich, take large chunks of discarded pink insulation. Assemble the works in the puddle beside the old ACC warehouse (once upon a time, also the curling rink). Pole off with a broken tree branch and pick up that lovely board that was floating just out of reach to become your paddle.

Now ... float away, but not too far, because the guys you left on the side of Fifth Avenue are going to want their turn.

There aren't a lot of places in town where you can do this any more, so these guys were lucky to find this way to pass the afternoon.

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RSS Wins Website Award


The opening home page for the Robert Service School's website. Photo by Dan Davidson

The official Robert Service School website (http://sparta.yesnet.yk.ca/schools/robertservice/) was awarded one of the Site of the Week prizes for the third week in January, 2000.

The site was developed, written, photographed and organized in March and April 1999 by Mr. Davidson as part of Schoolnet's "Grassroots" and "Canadian Heritage Interactive Journey" internet projects. The final construction was completed by experts at the Information Technology Support Services branch at the Department of Education.

The website was cited as follows by the awards committee:

Award Type: Weekly
Category: History

For anyone interested in learning more about the Yukon, and especially the gold rush, this site has a whole bunch of great information. The facts and figures page contains interesting information on Dawson City as well. Thumbs up to Robert Service School!

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Editorial: Moving Another Building

by Palma Berger

Bobby DeWolfe returns to his home town occasionally and is always a bit surprised at the changes.

Of course there are many changes. The all-pervading Parks Canada used to have its own building. But when they moved the Head Office to Whitehorse the remaining offices were dispersed among the unoccupied Parks buildings. That vacated the Old Administrative Building on Front Street, which was generally known as the Parks Building.

Then the Yukon Territorial Government office moved out of the top floor of the Old Liquor store into this building. All that is, except for the Liquor Store & Territorial Agent's office. For them the old Red Feather Saloon was upgraded and became their new home.

The Federal Building on Fifth Ave. lost its offices to the newly constructed Tr'ondek Hwech'in building on Front Street. But the Post Office remains on Fifth Ave.

The next level of government to move was the City. Its City Hall and Fire Hall ambled south down Fifth Ave. took a right turn to go down Front Street and chose their spot next to the Tr'ondek Hwech'in building.

The old house of ill-repute Bombay Peggy's, also was moved. It moved from its resting spot of many decades on Front Street, to be lovingly given a new spot on 2nd and Princess. It was enlarged and done up pretty grandly. It still caters to people but not in the way the building originally did.

It sits opposite The Bunkhouse which occupies the spot where Bombay Peggy's cabin used to be.

The Yukon Housing unit from Fourth Ave. that was burnt now sits out on the tailings. Nobody in it of course.

Private dwellings have been on the move. Sylvia Burkhard's house opposite the Minto Park hopped onto the next lot. This house was the home of Irene and Will Crayford for many years.

The home that was once Daisy and Axel Nordling's has just this year moved from the South end of town up to Fourth and York. People are going to get really disoriented if they expect to use these buildings as their landmarks.

Now another building has been moved. The Dawson Trading Post on Fifth Ave. opposite the Westmark Hotel has moved to Front Street also. What is there about Front Street?

It can be a bit confusing to past residents who leave a few years between their visits.

But Bobby DeWolfe has it figured out. "I see", says he. "When people in Dawson get a bit bored with things, they just up and move another building."

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