The saga of building Whistler’s new public library is not over yet, with the budget seeing an increase once again to a new total of almost $12 million.
And despite being openly frustrated, council unanimously voted to approve measures and funds to cover the extra $625,000.
Council was only asked to pay for $185,500 of that total, after a number of measures were adopted to offset the rest of the $625,000 increase. Still, councillors were not comfortable with the position they were put in.
“I appreciate how hard this project has been, but I am really struggling with this decision,” said Councillor Tim Wake during Monday’s council meeting.
“It is not a huge amount of money, but it is an extension of an extension of an extension,” he said.
Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden added, “I think at this point, with the project now costing almost $12 million, it would be foolish to not approve this.
“We are there. If we don’t approve this overrun, we don’t get an occupancy permit,” she said.
The $185,000 will come out of 2007 municipal capital program. The balance of the $625,000 will come from five sources:
• Having the library board pay for 100 per cent of the furniture ($80,000).
• Dipping into unused money from the library’s 2008 operating budget ($60,000).
• Using capital residual funds from 2007 municipal projects, such as using remaining Village Enhancement funds for outdoor plants and paving ($65,000).
• Substituting some products and materials ($4,500).
• Spending the rest of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) grant ($230,000).
Project coordinator Martin Pardoe, who asked council to approve using these measures, said of the project, “There isn’t a lot of fat left here to trim.”
He added that the 2007 operating budget was originally calculated to include the library’s opening in July this year. This included paying for six months worth of lighting and heat for the facility. Since the opening has now been delayed, this unused money can help offset the extended construction costs.
Library director Lauren Stara said that the operating budget cut will affect the library.
“We haven’t had a chance to make any final decisions, but I think it is possible that we won’t extend our staff hours as much as we hoped to in the new building,” said Stara, adding that new senior and front line staff were hired before the recent budget cuts.
In terms of the furniture costs the board will now pay, library board chair Alix Nicoll said, “I guess we felt rather like council felt — that we had to do it.”
“At this point in time, they have spent the budget money, and so we felt that we were able to step in there and help them out,” she said.
Nicoll added that the board currently has funds that could pay for the tables, chairs and other things required to fill a library. This money was originally earmarked for later upgrades to furnishings.
The reason the library budget rose $625,000 since May, and for the fourth time since the project was started, was construction delays that led to heightened insurance costs and sub-consultant fees. Installing the geothermal bore field was also problematic and ended up requiring a more expensive drilling rig.
Yet despite these problems, the library is almost complete and only minor details on the interior and landscaping are left to sort out.
Mayor Ken Melamed said: “There are a large number of people in the community that are looking forward to this project… It is a costly investment, but it is a significant investment.”
Pardoe added that the next steps for the project include cleaning the building, moving the books onto the new shelves, and setting up for operation.
The building should receive a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold rating. Only 33 other buildings in Canada currently boast this rating.
BC Hydro has also awarded the library a one-time grant of up to $10,987 for its energy efficient light design.
The four budget increases over three years, however, will mean that the library will not look exactly like the original designs. For example, the main fireplace, which should have been located at the crux of the L-shaped building, will not be built. Instead, textured concrete is being used to make the empty space look more attractive.
In anticipation of the new building, the library board is planning a community event in mid January where the public will help move books. The event is appropriately titled “Books on the Move”.
A tentative grand opening on Jan. 26 has also been scheduled.