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Council stalls on library decision

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Board chair has ‘no faith in this council’

Indecision at the council table has derailed the future of Whistler’s public library, according to Anne Fenwick, chair of the library board.

"I have no faith in this council, none whatsoever," said Fenwick, who sat through a marathon debate on the library at Monday’s meeting, where council deferred a decision to move forward with the library plans for at least another two weeks.

"I don’t believe they can make a decision. They don’t have the courage to.

"I thought (the plans were) going to go through. I totally couldn’t believe it. The whole process has been derailed."

She wasn’t the only one who was surprised and frustrated by Monday’s decision to send the plans back to staff.

Mayor Hugh O’Reilly was not expecting council to balk at the staff report, which would have taken the library plans to the next level. Earlier discussions with council before the formal meeting did not reveal that a majority of council still had doubts about the proposed $7 million building, which has been on the table for more than a month.

"(It) never crossed my mind what was going to happen on (Monday night)," said O’Reilly, after the meeting.

One month ago council voted 5-2 to move forward with the $7 million library plans. Councillors Marianne Wade and Kristi Wells cast the opposing votes at that time.

On Monday council was asked to approve a $815,000 contract to re-engage Hughes Condon Marler Architects for the new library building. The proposal before council also included eight resident-restricted units for seniors housing, which would add another $2 million to the cost of the building, although the seniors housing would not be funded by the municipality.

Hughes Condon Marler Architects drew up the original library plans two years ago when the library was imagined to be a $10 million facility shared with the museum.

At the beginning of the council meeting however a number of members of Whistler’s building industry, among them David McColm, Tim Regan and Rod Nadeau, expressed concerns that the library should be a community project, which could draw on the expertise of local designers, architects, and builders.

Rather than use the Vancouver-based architectural firm, McColm urged council to engage in a competitive bid process that could capitalize on the local talent.

"The idea of going out for competitive bids will open up other avenues as well," said McColm, adding that using local talent falls in line with Whistler’s sustainability initiatives.

A few members of council reiterated these comments during the library debate.

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