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Millennium Place negotiations continue

Interfaith society raises new concerns, stalling ownership transfer

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The saga of MY Millennium Place’s $3.2 million debt is not over yet.

This past weekend, the Whistler Interfaith Society unanimously gave its blessing to the multipurpose building's latest ownership agreement — but with two new conditions municipal hall thinks are not realistic.

Now negotiations between the main parties have been cracked open again, and the facility's future is back on the line.

Part of the issue is the interfaith society wants the municipality to delay the transfer until Jan. 16, 2009 so the society can try and cover the debt themselves and keep the building in its name. A private donor has pledged more than $2 million towards the facility, and the religious group hopes to find the rest of the funds soon to pay back the North Shore Credit Union.

But in a meeting last month, all groups involved in MY Place's sticky situation agreed to wrap up the transfer process by the end of 2008.

"It would be fantastic if they got those funds, but we don't have to hold up this agreement as a result of that, and I don't think we are in a position to delay this any longer," said Lisa Landry, general manager of economic viability for the municipality, who has been working closely on the issue.

Landry does not understand why the interfaith society wants to delay the transfer until January, because they can buy back the building for the next five years anyway.

Meanwhile, the municipality has already received the $3.2 loan from the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) to pay off NSCU's mortgage. Landry said it does not make sense for the municipality to continue paying interest to both the credit union and to the MFA.

"Because of how we thought this was going to go ahead, if this went on until January.... we would be paying two mortgages for one property that we don't even own," said Landry, who send a letter with the municipality's concerns to the interfaith society on Tuesday.

How NSCU will react is unclear. In October this year, the credit union called in their loan, with Doug Smith, vice president of corporate affairs, saying that foreclosure was an option.

This week, Smith said he did not want to comment until he has heard back from all parties.

“While we are thrilled that they (the interfaith society) may be able to retire the debt, that has been the status for the last six years,” he said.

Jason Kawaguchi, the newly appointed president to the interfaith society, said the new conditions are just housekeeping items.

“There is some accounting questions regarding some loans that were made in the past to the Millennium Place Society, and we just want to make sure that is not going to cause any problems for anybody going forward,” said Kawaguchi.

He added that while the interfaith society prefers to delay the transfer, it can go ahead at any time.

“If it has to be done this year, it has to be done this year,” he said.

MY Millennium Place — the locale for events like theatre performances, religious ceremonies, and council meetings — was built by the interfaith society in 2001, but the group was not able to raise enough funds to cover construction costs.

As a result, the municipality stepped in to guarantee a $3.2 million loan from the NSCU to finish the building. By 2005 the municipality had taken over debt payments.

In 2007 the plan to transfer ownership of the building to the municipality was hatched. In the proposal, the interfaith society could use the building for religious purposes, and the Millennium Place Society would still operate it. However, working out the details of the new ownership has been a challenge.

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