By Alison Taylor
The 2007 five-year financial plan details the biggest capital budget Whistler has seen in the last five years.
At a proposed $53 million, this year’s capital program is twice the size of the 2006 capital program of $27 million — a sign that the 2010 Winter Games are getting closer by the day.
“This is what it looks like taking advantage of the Olympic opportunity,” said Mayor Ken Melamed of the proposed capital plan.
“(The Olympics are) a powerful context of everything we do… Whistler needs to put its best foot forward.”
To do that the municipality will be investing in several major capital projects around the resort.
The biggest project by far is the upgrading of the wastewater treatment plant. This year $17.7 million will be spent on the project that will, among other things, fix the odour problem in the south end of town. The project has an overall cost of $33 million, which will be spent in the next two years.
Though the sewage plant upgrades skew the size of the capital budget, the work plan is still more extensive than it has been in previous years, even without that multi-million-dollar upgrade.
The budget also shows a $2 million line item to develop a gymnasium facility as part of the athletes’ village, of which $550,000 will be spent this year and the remainder before the Games.
The municipality has also set aside $3 million for the purchase of land “for parks purposes, or otherwise, if desirable locations become available.”
The gondola transit exchange will be getting a half-million dollar facelift that will include improvements to passenger loading and unloading areas, platforms and walkways, an improved shelter and benches.
Whistler Search and Rescue will also get a new base for its operations. A $400,000 investment will be made at the Public Works Yard to make a home base for SAR.
In addition to improvements in the village, the municipality will continue to funnel money into its parks and Valley Trail systems for upgrades and improvements.
There will be more signage, more playground equipment and $50,000 will be spent to install open air showers at each of the parks next to public beaches in response to the annual concerns about swimmer’s itch.
The budget also details the $5.5 million that will be spent this year to complete the $9.7 million library.
Another $5.7 million will be spent in the next three years on the upgrades to municipal hall.
Most of the money to pay for the capital projects will come from the municipal savings in reserves.
In the next five years there will be more spending than usual from reserves and a handful of reserves will be in the red by 2011, such as the 2010 Games Reserve at minus $1 million and the Transportation Works Charges Reserve at minus $2.7 million.
Diane Mombourquette, the new general manager of economic viability, said while there is a lot of spending, the reserves are still healthy in the years to come.
“The reality is we’ve got $17 million in reserves in 2011 in total (down from $21.8 million in 2007) and that’s what really matters, is that the total is OK,” she said.
“As far as municipalities go, we’ve got a good percentage of reserves when you look at our total budgets overall. Our financial picture, just about any way you look at it, is strong.”
The $51 million budget is up more than $1.6 million over last year’s budget.
To read the plan and provide comment go to www.whistler.ca . There will be an open house at MY Millennium Place on Monday, April 2 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a council meeting.