News » Whistler

Library grant at risk as building fails to meet energy targets

RMOW to spend $50,000 in attempt to gain more efficiency



The municipality is in jeopardy of losing a quarter of a million dollars in grant funding because the $12 million library isn't meeting its green energy targets.

To date it has received just half of a $500,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Green Municipal fund, but the other half of it is now at risk.

"The whole FCM grant was based around energy efficiency," explained municipal communications manager Michele Comeau. "The building is 30 per cent more efficient at this time than it would have been if it was just standard construction, a standard heating and cooling system. But it's still not as efficient ... as it needs to be to meet the targets that were set out."

That's why another $50,000 has been earmarked in the 2012 municipal budget to look at things such as installing sensors and timers.

And that, said former councillor Ralph Forsyth who was the council representative on the library board, is an "outrage."

"It's just another example of diminishing returns," he said, of spending another $50,000 to get the grant money.

The money is almost the same amount as the overall library budget shortfall last year — $54,000. Sunday closures were a measure to close that funding gap.

Who is to blame, Forsyth asked, for the poor energy performances?

Whistler he said paid a premium to deliver a state of the art LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold building.

"That's the deal I signed up for," said Forsyth.

The LEED designation remains gold for the time being. The LEED Program requires a building to be in operation for 12 months and its energy performance to be independently verified before adjudication is made.

Whistler was awarded the FCM grant money in May 2010 along with a $3.5 million low interest loan from FCM from the same Green Municipal Fund.

The loan is not at risk, said Comeau.

In a 2010 joint press release from FCM, the municipality and the government of Canada, touted the fact that the building was projected to use 45 to 50 per cent less energy than a comparable facility with no environmental measures.

Whistler is now trying to reach that goal and find another 15 to 20 per cent in energy efficiencies.

"They've allowed us extra time," said Comeau, adding that it could take a year of monitoring to see if the tweaks to the building work as planned.

The issue of the library's energy woes was first brought to light in September 2009 by then Councillor Forsyth.

The energy bills, he said at the time, were far higher than anticipated, and far higher than budgeted.

It was costing $28,500 per year in hydro when it was projected to cost $21,000. Ultimately the estimates were off by 35 per cent.

Council will consider the $50,000 project as part of the 2012 municipal budget. That budget must be approved by mid May.

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