By Alison Taylor
A Whistler taxpayer took council to task Tuesday night before it considered yet another budget increase for the now $11 million public library.
Jim Duncan called the budget “totally out of control” during Tuesday’s question and answer period, and in no uncertain terms, voiced his concern over the approval of another $1.38 million budget increase out of taxpayers pockets.
“I am deeply offended,” said the Whistler Rotarian who has given $51,000 to the Whistler Health Care Foundation’s CT scanner project.
He did not, however, stick around to hear the council debate on the subject later that evening. And while council, too, was concerned about another budget increase, the money was approved Tuesday night in a four to two vote.
Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was absent.
Comments from the council table revealed that some politicians feel stuck between a rock and a hard place because the project, which is in the heart of the village, is too far along to turn back.
“We have to spend it because we can’t leave it as it is,” said Councillor Ralph Forsyth.
The library will be a landmark building in Whistler with its high-beamed ceilings, bright windows, airy open spaces and magnificent views. It will be at least a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver building, with a green roof for all to see.
But not every councillor was taken with the building on a recent site tour.
“I’m embarrassed by it,” said Councillor Bob Lorriman. “It’s beyond what I would consider we need in this community.”
However, the monster he called “cost escalation” is holding council’s feet to the fire. He voted to approve the increase.
There was a cautionary note to staff attached to Councillor Gord McKeever’s approval.
As he spoke of his regret in voting last term for a construction model that he said left the door open for price increases, McKeever reinforced the problems of building the library during the worst, most aggressive construction market seen in the last 50 years.
“The only way to avoid it is not to build,” he said. “This is not an option here.”
But the municipality does have options when it comes to the multi-million dollar municipal hall renovation and expansion, set to get underway this year.
Council approved a $5.7 million project in November, amid concerns about the hot construction market.
“That budget is firm, fixed, it’s set in stone,” warned McKeever.