Dawson City, Yukon Friday, April 16, 1999

Bev and Wayne Fischer pose beside one of the Dawson City Courier's new buses, about a week before they hit the road. The buses will make daily runs between Whitehorse and Dawson. See story below. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Dawson Council says, "April Fool!"
Editorial: April Fools, eh?
Dawson Council Shares the Wealth
Dawsonites Given Choice for Multiplex
Changes to Utility Bills are Positive
Dawson Team Takes Gold at Native Hockey Tournament
Trying to Keep Up with the Traffic School Photo Album

Welcome to the April 16 edition of the online Klondike Sun. The news stand edition was 24 pages long, contained 31 photographs, 23 stories, our bi-weekly television guide, a 2 page photo spread on our school's spring activities, three editorial cartoons, profiles of the Sun's volunteers and the cartoon strips Paws and Mukluk & Honisukle.

Dawson Council says, "April Fool!"

by Dan Davidson

CBC will have to find something else to talk about in the morning.

The Star will need a new front page story.

The National Post will have to stop calling.

The smoking ban discussed at the last council meeting was a carefully crafted prank, and it caught us all off guard.

What no one in the media seemed to realize was that the Dawson council meeting on March 29 was the last meeting before April Fool's Day, and that everyone on council has a good sense of humour.

Whitehorse reporters, who should have caught this first really, since they got to see Dawson's entry at the Sourdough Rendezvous (a little ditty sung to the tune of the "Gilligan's Island" theme), fell the hardest.

The CBC transcript of the initial report on the smoking bylaw debate reads as if there had been a fight in council chambers.

This paper contacted its Dawson representative urgently wanting to know about the fight on the basis on the radio report. While the subsequent article (published yesterday) was substantially more balanced in tone, it remains a fact that the reporter who sat in chambers and heard all of this was taken in just like everyone else.

And the National Post... Well, no one quite knows how they latched onto the story, but they phoned a number of times on March 31, asking if the Mayor would like to comment on his bold initiative. He declined, and is still wondering what the paper's story will look like when it appears.

City manager Jim Kincaid says that everyone on council knew they would get a rise out of people with this maneuver, but no one came even close to estimating how much of a rise.

Twenty-four hours later there was already a petition against the unwritten bylaw making the rounds, and the bars were abuzz, according to Downtown Hotel owner Dick Van Nostrand, who was also in on the joke. His wife, Joanne, is a city councillor. Dick played the whole thing straight in his CBC radio interview.

MLA Peter Jenkins, who was also aware of the jest, gave a poker faced interview to CBC on how it was likely that things would move in this general direction in years to come. This happens to be an opinion which Jenkins actually holds, so it was easy for him to carry the joke further.

Everitt issued a press release on Wednesday afternoon indicating that, "It was poor judgment on my part to use April Fools to draw attention to a serious health issue."

On the other hand, he felt the joke was not entirely without merit.

"Dawson Councillors attempts to address the seriousness of this issue has prompted discussion from not only Yukoners but people and media as far away as Toronto."

Council had thought that the sheer physical impossibility of getting such a bylaw ready and doing everything that would be needed to write it would be a dead giveaway if people stopped and thought about it long enough. Instead, phone calls began to roll in to city offices from all over town; the territorial media jumped on the issue (perhaps because it tied in with a new Cancer Society campaign) and even the national media nibbled at the story.

"It was our intent," Everitt writes, "to hit the smokers on April 1st and to get the discussion rolling."

Could it have been a real thing? Everitt says no. City manager Kincaid has already advised council that such a bylaw could never be enforced here.

Everitt is using the hoax as the occasion to issue a challenge, however. The territorial government should, he says, begin to address the problem - and not doubt that it is a problem - with something more than a paper campaign.

After all, the war on smoking is a national issue, he says, and we do seem to be the last in the country to be giving it any real thought.

"The Yukon Territory was the last jurisdiction to impose seatbelt belt legislation. I just hope the Yukon government is not the last to address an equally, if not more important issue of tobacco use and second hand smoke."


Editorial: April Fools, eh?

by Dan Davidson

Reaction to the council's April Fool's joke was swift. Local artist Halin filed two cartoons on the subject before the joke was revealed.

Not only was the reaction to Dawson City council's anti-smoking bylaw jest swift and considerable outside of the community, it created quite a stir at home too.

I was NOT in on this, despite what some people may think. My first glimmering of the joke was on Wednesday afternoon, after I had already filed a serious analysis of what was good and bad about this idea with the Star. I had an appointment to go over the budget highlights with city manger Jim Kincaid, and Mayor Glen Everitt met me with the press release announcing the jest as I walked through the door.

Since the Wednesday Star was at that moment being sold in Whitehorse with a big "Dawson Mayor Ponders Sweeping Smoking Ban with a story under my byline, I felt rather foolish, to say the very least.

The reaction, including the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday high profile items on CBC radio, plus the call from the National Post, was quite a surprise for everyone. Even the councillors who had expected their telephones to be ringing off the hook were taken aback.

The telephone at the city office rang a lot, and the tally of the calls was a bit of a surprise. It wasn't even close. The calls ran about 2 to 1 in favour of doing something about the amount of smoking in the town even if they didn't agree to the full extent of the ban as it was discussed on television on March 29.

Yes, there was a petition against the proposal making the rounds, and yes, a local artist of some note did submit two anti-bylaw cartoons to the local paper on the same day, but the reaction was by no means uniformly against the idea of setting some limits.

People that I have spoken with about it over the long weekend were mostly in favour of restrictions. They didn't like the notion of Dawson being held up as the smoking capital of Canada, the last bastion of the uninhibited puffer.

Mind you, most of my associates are non-smokers or very light ones who wouldn't dream of lighting up without checking the group they're in to see if anyone objected. That makes my little sample somewhat biased.

Council will have a perceptual problem for the next little while. Every time they try to do something stern people will sit back and wait for the other shoe to drop. It can't be serious, they will say. Just remember the smoking bylaw?

There are also going to be others who will never believe that it was a joke. I've already heard the line. It assumes that the initial reaction from the community was so overwhelmingly negative that those horrible dictators on council were forced to back down real (I know it should be "really", but these folks tend to say it the other way) fast before they could get anything done.

I don't think that's how it went, but I can't prove it, and even if I could, those folks would just see it as proof of how deep the conspiracy went. Such is life.


Dawson Council Shares the Wealth

by Dan Davidson

It's been months since there were as many people in council chambers as there were on March 29. Maybe that's one of the reasons why council decided to handle its grant giving process a little differently this year.

It has been the practice of this council to make the grant application process a part of its annual budgetary exercise, and to include the approved applications in its planning. Usually the cheques have simply gone out one by one, with a few of the more significant donations receiving a special ceremony of some sort.

This year all donations were deemed special and representatives of all the organizations involved were invited to a ceremony at which each was presented with a certificate and given the opportunity to say a few words if they wished.

In all, ten organizations shared about fourteen grants totalling just over $160,000. There were four big ticket items which far outpaced the rest and were generally connected with Dawson's promotion of its summer activities.

The Klondike Centennials Society received $60,000 to help in its continuing operations as the clearing house for anniversary ideas and projects. There are still a few anniversaries to go between now that the 2002 centenary of the city's charter. In addition, the KCS is sharing space with the new Winter Tourism Committee.

To assist with its magazine advertising promotion the Klondike Visitors Association received $11,500, while another $18,000 went to help in reestablishing the marketing and promotion position it had to terminate last summer after a drop in revenues at Diamond Tooth Gerties caused some internal trimming.

The Dawson City Chamber of Commerce began to become a viable organization a few years ago when it developed a means of providing some revenue so it could hire a manager. While initial money came from the sale of special ferry passes to local businesses, things improved immensely when city council started turning over the money it collects for business licenses in the community. This year, with a rise in licence fees, this will amount to $40,000, which will be turned over to the chamber. In response, as part of the partnership arrangement with the city, the chamber has lowered its membership fee to a token $5.

Since cutbacks trimmed the extras away from Klondike National Historic Sites, the Dawson City Museum has been trying to take up some of the programs that were dropped, especially the street theatre interpretation component. Each year local students are hired to assist in the museum's programs and to walk throughout the town in costume, playing out historical roles which they have researched extensively. Council is once again contributing $10,000 to this effort.

The Tr'ondek Hwech'in received a total of $4,000 to help them put on several annual programs: the summer Gathering, the autumn First Hunt and the Community Christmas Feast.

A relative newcomer to the granting process, the Klondike Country Jamboree's $3500 grant will pay half the cost of the technicians needed to work the equipment for the next concerts this summer.

As part of its continuing partnership with the town, the Dawson Humane Society received a $2050 grant.

The Dawson Child Care Association received $2,000 to its work. In return, its members will assist the council in planning children's toys for new park developments in the town.

Council granted the Dawson City Music Festival $1,000 to help finance the annual dinner it throws for performers and volunteers at the July festival.

The Dawson Shelter Society got a $500 equipment grant.

While most of the recipients took their certificates with a smile and a handshake, a couple had a few words to say about the process.

Speaking for the chamber of commerce, Michel Dupont of Dominion Co. said, "We entered into this agreement in 1999 as it marks our centennial (for the chamber). We believe that this investment by the mayor, council and the population of Dawson will improve the quality of life for the whole of the community by giving us the means to provide support and service to the existing and potential businesses.

"This partnership will be a model for other chambers...and we look forward to a long and healthy relationship with the City of Dawson."

K.C.S. President Jon Magnusson presented council with a limited edition print of Scrooge McDuck in the Klondike to add to the other artwork in the council chambers.

Dick Van Nostrand, chair of the KVA, received the certificate, noting that, "The KVA certainly appreciates this contribution and our partnership with the city we look forward to a long, fruitful relationship."


Dawsonites Given Choice for Multiplex

Original article by Jason Small for the Whitehorse Star
with amendments and additions by Dan Davidson

There will be a public plebiscite on a new recreation complex - in Dawson City.

The town is looking at two proposals for its new multi-million-dollar recreation centre, and wants the residents of Dawson and the surrounding area to help make the decision.

"The city has always planned a plebiscite (a referendum)," Mayor Glen Everitt said in an interview late in March..

Everitt said the town will hold the vote sometime in late April and that it doesn't consider itself bound by decisions made at earlier public meetings a few years back when the $9 million plan was developed.

"It's the council's belief that public meetings don't do it," said Everitt in an interview with the Whitehorse Star. He also said the council had always promised to hold a vote.

"The public should have a chance to give their final say" on an issue of this much money, said Everitt to the Star, though council has been clear that the vote will not be considered binding.

The vote will come after a public meeting in the middle of April, during which the two proposals will be explained.

Of the two proposals, number one was developed by the community through public consultation under the auspices of the town's recreation board. Number two was developed by the council, based on what it felt is affordable.

Proposal number one would cost more than $9 million. It has a half-gym, an indoor pool which would be open year-round, an arena with an artificial ice maker, and would close off part of Fourth Avenue. Even with that cost, it was the annual operations and maintenance bill that was the scary part.

Plan number two, the town's proposal, would see a new arena without the artificial ice-maker and a full gym, but it would not close off the street.

There is a pool in plan two, but it would be away from the complex at the site of the current pool. This pool would be open for six months each year.

The town's proposal checks in at $6 million. Everitt also believes its plan would cost less than the other plan to operate each year.

Number one was designed by an architect after listening to suggestions at public meetings.

After that plan was designed, about a year and a half ago, council felt it needed to come up with another option.

The territorial government has set aside $9 million for the project, at $1 million per year, this money to be split between the recreation project and the construction of secondary sewage treatment facilities.

Because this facility would be used by more than just Dawson residents, the people in the area surrounding the town, including communities like Henderson, Rock Creek, Bear Creek and West Dawson, would also be allowed to vote.

Everitt said council's choice is the less expensive proposal - number two.

The mayor contends "plan two has everything they wanted, structured different (than the first plan)."

The big difference between the two plans are the pool and the arena.

Plan two's pool, which would be located where the present pool is on Fifth Avenue, would be indoors, but would only be open for six months of the year. Everitt said it's designed that it can be open year-round when the town can afford it.

The arena in plan two does not have an ice plant, and would just create ice naturally on the cement floor. However, it's designed with the pipes laid out and an area in place, to install an artificial ice plant, when the town feels it is affordable.

It's the mayor and council's position that Dawson cannot afford to have a year-round pool and an artificial ice plant.

"We're saying the population is too small (to afford it)," Everitt said. The town is home to about 2,060 people in the winters.


Changes to Utility Bills are Positive

by Dan Davidson

Dawson's town council gave its rate payers the bad news first this year when it came time to discuss the annual utility billings. The bad news is that the municipal grant which dropped the standard residential bill of $1155 down to a more manageable figure in the mid $800 range is gone for everyone but seniors.

The good news is that this grant has been replaced by a subsidy which will knock that same bill down to $750.

This is the first decrease in sewer and water billing in recent years and was made possible by the surplus which council managed to build up out of the last budget.

"The neat thing," chortled Mayor Glen Everitt, "is that it's not an election year and we're still giving money back."

That council had wanted to do this is no surprise. The intention was a front page headline in the Klondike Sun about a year ago. Getting there this soon was a bit of a surprise.

In addition, rates will drop slightly for businesses and for homes with rental suites in them.

As last year, rate payers will be able to split their bills in half, making one payment by May 31 and the final one by the end of October. That makes the burden easier for many, but it also makes it easier to forget. The two pay list of tax lien notices in the most recent edition of the Sun attests to the number of people who, from the sized of the arrears, forgot to make the second payment on either their utility bills or their property taxes, which are handled the same way here. Something like half of the billings are under $300.

This year those who have not already paid off the previous year's bill will find a disconnection notice in their envelope from the town office. Council is quite serious about refusing service to anyone who hasn't cleared up his or her arrears by the end of May.

In total, this year's revision of the Water and Sewer bylaw, even counting the $75 add-on for maintaining the Quigley Dump, will put an estimated $187,000 back into the pockets of Dawsonites.

Those who own property will have to use a little of it to pay an increase in taxes brought about by the territorial government's land assessment, which came out this year. City manager Jim Kincaid says the office has run projections on a few properties selected at random and it will generally not be more than $50.

Everitt explained that the YTG changed the rules for property taxes a few years ago to disallow the former practice of having the municipality drop the mil rate when the assessment was increased. Now, the next year's block funding is cut by the projected amount of the increase, so if the town were not to pass it on, the municipal coffers would take a double hit the next year, as happened in Whitehorse when the capital city lowered its base rates after its last territorial assessment.


Dawson Team Takes Gold at Native Hockey Tournament

by Rod Dewell

The Han Housing Team. Photo credit to Jeff Wilson Studios. Photo supplied by the team.

The Annual Native Hockey Tournament in Whitehorse is the biggest tournament held in the Yukon. This tournament which always provides a fast hard-hitting brand of hockey, draws teams from all over the north. Dawson City has traditionally provided quality teams which have done their share of winning in the past.

This year Dawson City entered a team in the "C" division. This team was basically the Bantam-Midget Minor Hockey team which played in the Oldtimer Hockey league.

Fortunate to get a bye, in the first round Dawson City lined up against Teslin for their first game on Friday night. The game remained close until the third period when Dawson opened it up and came out on top of a 10-5 score.

Scoring for Dawson were Malcolm Dewell, Nathan Dewell, Paul Isaac (2), Alex Kormendy, Charlie Taylor (2), Mike Fraser, Daniel Mason, and Jason Barber. If Dawson had lost that game they would have had to play four more games Saturday to get to the final as it was, they only had to win one to get to the big game.

On Saturday, the boys lined up against a fast skating team from Aklavik. Down by two goals the Dawson team took stock and started the come back.

Nathan Dewell started the scoring followed by a pretty goal by Alex Kormendy. After falling behind, 3-2, Charlie Taylor scored to tie and take the game into overtime. With only one minute left in overtime, Jason Barber spotted Nathan Dewell in front of the net and the game was over, much to the delight of the big Dawson crowd.

On Sunday morning the final saw Dawson City once more faced Aklavik. The team from NWT had easily defeated Ross River in the double round knock out the night before to get another crack at the Dawson Squad.

Dawson City jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Mike Fraser, Tyson Knutson and Jason Johnson. In the second period, Aklavik got back into the game, chipping away at the Dawson lead until they had tied the score.

This led to an exciting final few minutes as Mike Fraser scored his second of the game to give Dawson back the lead. The Aklavik team pressed hard right to the end but was unable to get the equalizer and Dawson City took home the gold. it was a well earned and deserved win, something all hockey people in Dawson can be proud of. A big thanks to coaches Art Christiansen and Rod Dewell and to all the Dawson fans who attended.


Trying to Keep Up with the Traffic

by Dan Davidson

One of the fastest growing and most successful new businesses in Dawson in the last year would have to be Dawson City Courier, which has jumped from one suburban doing taxi service in town and on the creeks to two buses making daily runs from Whitehorse and Dawson in just 12 months.

Bev and Wayne Fischer live at the site of their businesses, in a compound just outside the town boundary about 10 minutes from their pickup site at the Downtown Hotel.

Buses leave from the Downtown Hotel in Dawson and the Greyhound Station in Whitehorse at about 6 o'clock each evening. They meet in Pelly Crossing 3 to 4 hours later, depending on the road conditions. There the drivers switch buses and continue on their way, each returning to his or her home community around midnight.

At this end passengers get off near the Downtown, while those arriving in Whitehorse disembark at the Bonanza Inn.

How did an outfit which began with one taxi grow so fast? There have been other taxis in Dawson over the years, but most have been small operations that did not last. When the Fischers began their taxi service and jumped to courier service within a month after that there were some knowing nods around the community and a "wait and see" attitude.

Fischers were a bit that way themselves. "We were skeptical at the beginning," says Bev, who looks after the courier office, "but we thought, 'well, we'll try it'. We've had great support from everyone around Dawson - miners, locals, everyone."

Neither of them ever intended to be in the transportation business. After 28 years in construction in British Columbia, Wayne wanted to come back to the Yukon (he'd been here in 1980) to get into mining. It's been eight years since they returned and they haven't done any yet.

Their first business was Fischer Contracting, which still exists within their compound and does lots of work for folks in the gold fields. The move to transportation was spurred by the needs of their contracting business. They found that there just wasn't enough regular freight service to and from Dawson to be really useful.

"Parts delivery, " says Wayne simply. "It would take three days."

"Every down day is money to a miner," adds Bev.

Wayne continues, "There were three freight outfits coming in here plus the Norline Bus line, and everybody came in on the same day and we still didn't get the service we needed.

"So a year ago I said to Bev, 'I'm going to create my own courier' and it's just taken off by leaps and bounds."

The taxi began to run in February 1998. In March they added "courier" to the company name and began the daily runs with the vans.

"The vans did a great job," says Wayne. "We tried both a Ford and a Chev and I can't complain about either of them, but we just grew right out of them."

Initially they carried seven passengers, but it wasn't enough. They were turning away so many people that they had to apply for a license upgrade to carry 10.

Just about every week, even in the winter, there was a night when they had to turn away passengers because they were full. Just before this interview they were even forced to leave freight for a day due to overcrowding.

Last summer they also picked up one of the Canada Post mail hauling contracts, so that Dawson now gets mail five days a week. To cover that with the vans, they've had to rent a U-haul trailer..

So now they've moved to buses, two of them, obtained from Jim McLaughlin's Van Gorda Bus Lines of Faro. These vehicles, with air ride suspension and coach seating, will hold 24 passengers. The seats have been taken out of the back end of the bus and that area partitioned off for freight and mail.

There's no bathroom for the trip yet, but the bus stops five times along its route, at Klondike River Lodge, Stewart Crossing, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks and Braeburn Lodge, so that's not a problem.

Dawson City Courier now runs a taxi in and around Dawson. They have two vans available for use and the buses are making the Whitehorse run. They have a steady business in passengers from every stop along the route, and do all the freight and passenger work for the Viceroy Mine at Brewery Creek. All of this employs eight people in Dawson and Whitehorse.

Fischers are planning to acquire a small car for just in-town tax business, while keeping the four wheel drive for those trips out to mining claims.

In addition, they are affiliated with Greyhound Lines, so now you can buy a ticket in Toronto or Vancouver and pay your fare all the way to Dawson without having to pay more for the final leg of the trip.

"A lot of people told me not to get involved with government," says Bev, "but we haul all the Health Canada passengers now."

So you'd have to look at all this and call it a success. Did they expect it?

"We weren't prepared for it," Bev says. "This winter we said we were going to do this and this and this when it slowed down and we got some spare time. Well we haven't got a lot of those things done.

Wayne agrees: "We set a target on what we would do and it's far exceeded our expectations." Even getting the buses ready to was been a struggle.

Now that there is a daily bus service in and out of Dawson, word has gotten out quickly. Bev says she receives calls from all over. The week of this interview someone called from Wales, another from Louisiana. Lone Wolf Productions, which runs the shows at Diamond Tooth Gerties and the Palace Grand Theatre, has already booked April seats for its cast and crew.

The buses may not be the end of the story. Summer was packed last year with the vans and they think it may be again this year, since Norline has withdrawn from the Dawson route. They still have the vans and will put them into service on a separate daytime run during the summer, adding an 8 a.m. run to the schedule they have now.


School Photo Album

Photos by Dan Davidson

The Musical Theatre 8/9 class went on the road in March, visiting schools in Mayo, Pelly. Carmacks and Faro with a selection of four plays. The longest piece, "Muckup at Murder Mansion" is shown here.

Part of the Grade 6 Marsville Project, this habitat bubble was a big hit at the Science Fair in late March.

We were pushing it a little to have a ski afternoon on Moose Mountain in late March, but the weather held for us.

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