Energy bills soar in green library 

Council defeats motion for closer look at green building initiatives

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The energy bills in Whistler's state of the art, showcase "green" library are coming in more than four times higher than estimated.

The soaring hydro bills, originally estimated by architects to be $7,000 per year, are closer to $30,000, which suggests the building is producing far more greenhouse gases than anticipated.

There could be a variety of factors at play, some of which may be rectified, and library director Lauren Stara urged people not to write-off the award-winning facility, which opened in early 2008, just yet.

"It's too early in the life of the building to condemn the estimates for being completely wrong," she said, adding that the library team is very proud to be a part of the municipality's biggest and boldest symbol for green building.

"We want to live up to that," said Stara.

The anomaly between the energy estimates and the true performance of the building however, prompted Councillor Ralph Forsyth, who is the council representative on the library board, to urge council for a report on the green building performances of other municipal buildings.

That motion was defeated at Tuesday's meeting, a move that shocked the councillor.

"Don't you want to know if the money you're spending is working or not?" asked a frustrated Forsyth in an interview following Tuesday's council meeting.

"We're afraid to ask that question."

Forsyth wanted that question answered in a report - which would examine the municipality's green buildings, such as the $11 million library, the Spring Creek fire hall and the Beaver Flats employee housing complex - to see if they are actually saving the money they were touted to save when first approved.

"Is it that we're being sold a bunch of balderdash when these (staff) reports come forward saying how much we're going to save?" asked Forsyth. "Or does the technology actually not really work. Or the technology works, it's just not as effective as we thought. It's one of those three. It can't be anything else."

His request for an analysis on the issue, however, was defeated in a four to three vote. Forsyth said he felt like a heretic afterwards for daring to question Whistler's green building initiatives.

"I'll spend the money to do the right thing for the environment," he said. "We all want the same thing... but I'm tired of being sold things that are supposed to save me money when they don't. Just tell me the truth."

On the other side of the debate, Mayor Ken Melamed questioned spending the time and money on such a report when building to green standards is simply the right direction.

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