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Council Briefs

Paralympic arena costs challenging

The costs of building an ice arena in the heart of the village are proving to be a challenge.

Though he was reticent to speak about the project this week, Whistler’s mayor said there are financial challenges. That’s why the second public open house on the arena was cancelled twice last month.

"All I can say is that the task force wasn’t able to find an easy resolution to the challenges on Lot 1/Lot 9 so we’re still looking at options," said Mayor Ken Melamed this week.

When asked if that meant the costs were higher than expected, the mayor said: "I think that’s another way to describe a challenge. What’s the biggest challenge we ever have? Money."

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games has agreed to give Whistler $20 million to build the arena, which will host the sledge hockey events during the Paralympic Games.

Any costs above and beyond that must come from the municipality.

The mayor would not provide any details on what the cost estimates are right now.

At one time the municipality had looked at forgoing the village arena, the $20 million and being host to the sledge hockey events, in favour of twinning the Meadow Park arena in Alpine Meadows. In this scenario VANOC was prepared to give the municipality $8 million for the second ice sheet.

Community member Stuart Munro asked the mayor at Monday’s meeting if the $8 million was still an option should Whistler choose not to build the village arena.

The mayor would not comment at the meeting but when asked again later about that money Melamed said they were in discussions with VANOC.

"We haven’t ruled out anything," he said. "All the options are still open. We’re trying to make a decision about what our best course of action is at this point."

He is expecting to get an update on the Paralympic arena at the next council meeting on Monday, July 17.

Whistler looks for courthouse funding

Whistler council has agreed to look for funds to support the return of a courthouse to Squamish.

The decision was made after a presentation and recommendation Monday from Dr. Stephen Milstein, chair of the Healthy Communities Committee.

Milstein asked that Whistler begin discussions with the District of Squamish on how to pay for the courthouse. Council was unanimous in its support of that request.

Milstein highlighted the important role a local courthouse played in the community.

Not only does it mean less travel for police officers who have been making their way to the North Vancouver courts for cases, disrupting their police work in the community, it could also represent some cost savings to the community, he said.

It is estimated the cost for Whistler police to travel to North Vancouver is in the realm of $90,000 per year.

Milstein said Whistler’s portion to operate the Squamish courthouse could be considerably less.

In May Attorney General Wally Oppal, after hard lobbying from corridor stakeholders, agreed to reintroduce a 10-day circuit court in Squamish as long as the community got the funding and the building to house the court.

The province closed the town’s courthouse in 2002 as part of its cost-cutting initiatives.

Employee housing forum to provide answers

With several employee housing developments on the horizon, questions abound about what that means for Whistler waitlisters and other community members.

To answer some of those questions the Whistler Housing Authority will be hosting a Public Forum and Information Session on Wednesday, July 19.

The meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Westin Resort & Spa in the Emerald A Room. Everyone is welcome to attend.