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Municipality loans chapel society $450,000

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Trades working on the Maurice Young Millennium Place project will be paid today, after the municipality provided $450,000 in temporary funding to the Whistler Skiers Chapel Society, which is awaiting approval of a $3 million mortgage.

In a special meeting Feb. 27, Whistler council agreed to provide the $450,000 loan interest-free for a period of 30 days. Acting director of finance John Nelson told council that late the previous week the municipality received a request for temporary funding assistance from the Skiers Chapel Society. The society’s mortgage application is expected to be approved, but the paper work will take another week or so. In the interim, the society needed $450,000 to pay tradespeople and keep the project moving ahead.

Council members voted unanimously in favour of providing the loan, but only after it was agreed the society provide the municipality with a duplicate certificate of title to the property as security.

"We have an obligation to the public to proceed in a normal business way," Councillor Nick Davies said.

Councillor Ted Milner said he had talked to senior management at the North Shore Credit Union about the society’s mortgage application and they indicated they are satisfied. "It just hasn’t been reviewed by their loan people," Milner said.

"I don’t think we need to take (further) actions, they’re not going anywhere."

Davies disagreed.

"If in 30 days they can’t repay the loan then the risk has increased from today," Davies said. "A prudent business person wouldn’t enter into a transaction without some security."

Councillor Ken Melamed noted there was some reluctance on the part of council to make the loan, but said, "We can hardly say no.

"I don’t like being in this position, and the feeling I get is that ultimately we would forgive the $450,000 loan if it came to that," Melamed said.

The final cost for Millennium Place is now expected to be $7 million. The Skiers Chapel Society has raised approximately $5.5 million over the last two years, although $1.5 million of that is in staged commitments by donors. That’s why the society is seeking a $3 million mortgage rather than a $1.5 million mortgage. The mortgage is expected to be for a term of 30 months.

Maurice Young Millennium Place started as an interfaith chapel but the plans have expanded over the years to become a multi-use community facility. The building, located next to municipal hall on Blackcomb Way, will include a teen centre, day care facilities, workshop and meeting space a concession and perhaps a TicketMaster outlet. The centrepiece of the building will be the Franz Wilhelmsen Hall, which will be used as a place of worship by a number of religious faiths but can also be used for public meetings, films and small scale theatre performances.

As the functions planned for the building have increased so has the price. Nearly four years ago the Whistler Skiers Chapel Society announced $2 million was the fund-raising goal. In early 1998 the price tag was $3.1 million; by the end of the year it was $5 million. The next year the figure commonly used was $5.6 million.

Two summers ago the foundation for the building was poured. Construction work began last April and the goal was to have the building open in time for Christmas 2000. The opening date was later changed to March, 2001. It is now expected to open in May.