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O'Siem Pavilion delays irk Squamish merchants

Stimulus funding supposed to be used by March 2011



Downtown merchants expressed their disappointment at the recent inaction by the District of Squamish as councillors last week deferred - again - a decision on the location of the O'Siem Community Pavilion, after staff asked for more time to ascertain additional costs.

Staff recommended that the council give them until November to find out the costs involved in the removal of the stone sculptures and some trees from the site.

Staff acknowledged there was a tight deadline for the funding, but said, "the request for proposals will go ahead nonetheless and we are confident we can still have the pavilion constructed by the March 2011 deadline."

This is the second time in a month that the decision on the location of the O'Siem Pavilion has been deferred. On Sept. 7 Squamish council decided to give the community groups two weeks for consultation on which location would be the best in downtown Squamish.

Of 16 groups asked, only two provided comments on the possible location of the pavilion.

The O'Siem Community Pavilion is made possible by a combined federal and provincial grant of $500,000. Squamish has a deadline of March 31, 2011 to use the funding.

Residents and Downtown Squamish merchants fear the inordinate delay in building the pavilion will result in a loss of federal funding, resulting in more delays for the project.

"I'm really disappointed," said Christine Elliot of Sunsational Vacations. "I don't know why they can't take a concrete decision on this issue. If there are problems with it we can all sit and talk and work towards the solutions."

Like other downtown business owners, she said the delay was more frustrating because the pavilion had already been an integral part of the downtown core and added to its vibrancy.

Eric Armour, the president of the Downtown Squamish Business Improvement Association, said he understood that there could be technical issues but was disappointed the district took so long to act on them.

"They didn't figure this thing out in the past 15 months. It's sad that it got delayed down to the last moment," he said.

Gregory Fischer, the past president of DSBIA and the owner of the Gelato Carina, also expressed his frustration at the snail's pace of the project.

"They are not organized," Fischer said of the district. "The pavilion is not going to build itself. We have got the money and they should have built it by now. I'm so surprised by this latest news."

A new entrant to the downtown business, Correy Matheson of the Nature Nest said the pavilion was already part of the downtown core and more surveys on the issue won't prove the location wrong.

"Where is the gathering place in downtown Squamish?" she asked. "With the pavilion, we had a place to host local talent and to have a sense of place and community. It's not just the businesses, but everyone in Squamish needs it."

The funding for for the pavilion was meant to create jobs and to stimulate the local economy during the recession. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had warned earlier in the month that the federal government will pull the plug on the projects if the funding is not utilized by the end of March 2011.

Later, however, he said the funding deadline is not etched in stone and could be extended.

"We are not going to be unreasonable about it," he told reporters in Montreal on Sept.27.