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Countdown for new library begins

SaturdayÕs groundbreaking ceremony celebrated at the site



Momentous. Awesome. Exciting.

These are just some of the words used to describe the moment of the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Whistler Public Library on Saturday, June 18.

With a cake and refreshments on hand, a group of municipal officials, library board members, the projectÕs architects and the general public gathered as Mayor Hugh OÕReilly and others shoveled the first ceremonial pile of dirt out of the ground and into a blue wheelbarrow.

The word OÕReilly used to describe the moment was not so much excitement and anticipation, rather relief.

"ItÕs a bit of an understatement to say this has been a long time in coming," he said.

It was 1992 when the first needs assessment was done for a public library. At that time, the community was using leaky, cramped trailers to rent books, do research, read newspapers and use computers. Thirteen years later, the community is still using those leaky trailers. But not for long.

With SaturdayÕs official groundbreaking, work on the new $8 million library is set to really begin. It will be located on the same site as the existing library, Lot 20/21 opposite MilestoneÕs.

Kristen Clark, who was at the ceremony, is looking forward to the new building.

"We use the library a lot," said Clark, watching as her children moved construction along by scooping dirt into the wheelbarrow.

In the existing library, she explained, itÕs hard to keep the children quiet in the confined space. The new library will give them more freedom.

And thatÕs not all said Anne Townley, chair of the library board.

Not only will there will be a separate kids area with programming during the day, the library will have a computer business centre, a multi-purpose room, wireless technology, a fireplace to curl up in front of and room enough to display the libraryÕs whole collection of books Ð an impossibility in the small trailers.

"ItÕs going to be a warm and inviting place," added OÕReilly.

A place he said which caters to not only the local resident population but seasonal employees who may need to use the computers, and guests who may need a place to explore on those less-than-perfect ski days.

For Jim Charters, owner of Whistler Construction Company, the construction manager of the project, the goal now is to get the roof on the library by the winter.

"ThatÕs the plan but itÕs a stretch," he said.

ThereÕs a lot of work to be done. The library will be a 12,000 square foot L-shaped building with underground parking.

It is to be a "green" building, built to the same standards, if not higher, as the Spring Creek Fire Hall and Day Care Centre. Those buildings were awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ratings. What that means is that in addition to using environmentally friendlier technology such as geothermal heating, the library construction process will also aim to recycle and reuse materials.

Earlier this month, the vegetation was removed from the site. It was relocated to other municipal projects such as the improvements to the Alpine Way and Rainbow Drive intersection.

"Right from the beginning weÕre reusing and recycling," said Charters.

The tender package for phase one, including geotechnical, excavation, site compaction and geothermal, will be released shortly. Once the tenders have been awarded, site construction will truly be full steam ahead.