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Council orders second look at some high cost infrastructure projects

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Council has told staff to take a second look at the budgets of four large infrastructure projects as it struggles to deal with concerns about municipal overspending.

"Is this a nice to have or a must have," said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, referring to plans for the $2.9 million park at Cheakamus Crossing.

The other three projects sent back to staff at Wednesday night's council meeting are: the $520,000 reconstruction of the Spruce Grove Valley Trail Bridge ($20,000 of which would be spent in 2011, to be completed by 2013), the $423,000 for the 19 Mile Creek pedestrian bridge crossing and $250,000 for construction of Lost Lake trails.

The motion to send the projects back to staff passed with only Councillor Ralph Forsyth opposed. The financial plan for 2011 to 2015 continues to be worked on.

Of these projects, the Cheakamus Community Park gave councillors the most concern. The previous council committed to completing the project but, as Councillor Eckhard Zeidler expressed Tuesday night, it was something they never should have agreed to.

"I think we really shanked this quite badly," he said, adding that it has nothing to do with the current council, but the council previous.

"That this particular expense is on our particular budget at all I think is a bit of a tragedy... This should have been absolutely included in the overall pro forma for the development of that neighbourhood.

"We got this one dead wrong."

Construction for the park is supposed to begin this year, with the whole $2.9 million earmarked for the 2011 budget. Mayor Ken Melamed requested of staff that a portion of that money be used to as further evaluation "of how that project could be phased to reduce the capital."

"We hear it loud and clear, people are concerned about cost escalations of the municipality," he said.

Melamed also expressed concern over the two bridge crossings, referring to the Spruce Grove Bridge as a "nice to have." He requested that the project's $20,000 earmarked for 2011 be targeted to answer whether or not the bridge is needed at all.

"When you look at the location of this bridge and the fact that there's a perfectly good concrete bridge that's good probably for the next thousand years, it really begs the question would it really not be better just to yank the thing out when it's served its purpose?" he said.

"Then decommission the trail, put it back to riparian condition and direct the Valley Trail through Spruce Grove Park and over the bridge, which is where half of the riders and walkers go anyway through the winter."

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