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Fill flap stalls seniors housing

Pemberton scrambling to find money to put structural fill on site



The fight to put more seniors housing in Pemberton is proving more expensive than the Village of Pemberton first thought.

In April the provincial government announced it would put 18 units of new modular housing at 7420 Flint Street in Pemberton, just off Portage Road and the village's main thoroughfare, a number that has since grown to 22. B.C. Housing hopes to build it as part of a pledge to put up 1,000 units of seniors housing around the province.

But the approximately $3 million project has since hit a pothole as it requires the village to pay over $100,000 to help put it there.

News of the funds for structural fill came as a real surprise for Pemberton, which initially thought it didn't have to contribute a cent to the seniors' housing project. It was announced as part of a federal/provincial program and the village never even applied for the funding.

Though the village is thankful for the project, it's now being asked to foot part of the bill for something it didn't request to begin with.

"They came in and announced this last April without telling us and we were thrilled to receive it," said Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy. "Only months later did the province indicate to us, unless we bucked up, they wouldn't be following through on their commitment."

A report to council for its Sept. 15 meeting said the cost of placing structural fill on the property is "outside the scope of the project budget" and that the village needs to provide the material to get the project built.

The Village of Pemberton is able to obtain structural fill from a pit near Suicide Hill but cost estimates for transferring the fill have been pegged at anywhere between $10 to $16 per cubic metre. The site itself needs about 8,096 cubic metres of structural fill, meaning it could cost the village almost $130,000 to transfer it to the site.

The report to council notes there's no money in the 2009 budget to fund the project, meaning it may have to make a budget amendment in order to secure the funds.

Sturdy said in an interview that B.C. Housing can't afford to pay for the fill on top of construction and servicing costs that are already needed to build the units.

"They can't afford to do the project without the village or the community supplying the structural fill," he said. "The whole thing is most unfortunate and we feel that we could probably do the whole thing for less money.

"However, that said, this project is far too important to this community for us to be playing games and to not be behind it and not be doing anything that we can do to make sure this thing goes ahead. It's very important to the future of a diverse community."

At this point, the Village of Pemberton is waiting on a geotechnical report that's to come in the next couple of weeks to give staff more clarity as to how much fill is needed on the property. Sturdy said the village has also identified some sites where it can acquire the fill material at a "minimal cost" and work with contractors to provide certainty in terms of the cost for delivery and placement of material.

Money, however, also remains an uncertainty. Sturdy said it could cost as much as $200,000 to place structural fill on the property. The village is also waiting on a financial report to see where the money can come from.

B.C. Housing did not respond to a request for comment by press time.