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Athletes village still in holding pattern

"We are running out of time," says mayor

There could be no Whistler athletes village for 2010 if the province can’t approve a new construction financing strategy soon.

"We’re not prepared to go ahead alone," Mayor Ken Melamed said this week, adding that he’s prepared to back away from the project if a feasible business plan is not in place.

"We are running out of time," he said. "We have tried to be as understanding of their (the province’s) difficult situation. We remind them at every opportunity that time is of the essence."

A financial plan has yet to be approved for the proposed 478-unit, 43-hectare village near Function Junction that will house 2,400 athletes taking part in events at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

In April a revised financial plan was presented to the province to accommodate the proposed village’s construction challenges. At the province’s request, the municipality has not released plan details but insiders speculate the municipality is requesting consideration be given to allow some of the residences built on the Crown land to be sold at market value.

Ten days ago Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen, who is also responsible for the province’s Olympic participation, said he had not yet read the business plan but did say a response is expected within 30 days. The minister is now out of the country until June 5.

Construction contracts for site clearing are being drafted and work could begin as early as mid-June, said Eric Martin, chair of the 2020 Development Corporation. The construction company executive, who’s been involved in building in Whistler since the mid-1980s, is overseeing the village’s construction and says the first road design-engineering contract is ready.

"The challenge is really getting the discussion with the province concluded so we can finish our business plan and be able to recommend to council how to go forward," Martin said.

Jim Godfrey, Whistler’s Olympic point man has been in weekly contact with the province.

"We’re working very hard to make this work," he said. "We’re in meaningful dialogue with the province in terms of trying to come up with a viable business plan."

Mayor Melamed would like to see some results.

"We’ve made our request (to the provincial government). We keep asking for information and we keep waiting."