$26 million owed on athletes' village 

Whistler Development Corporation borrowed from municipal reserves and Municipal Finance Authority

There's a $26 million bill still outstanding on Whistler's Olympic athletes' village, a drop in the bucket compared to Vancouver's $446 million village debt, but still a hefty bill yet to be paid.

More than half of the outstanding sum - $15 million - is to be paid back to the municipal reserves account. The rest, about $11 million, is owed to the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA).

Mayor Ken Melamed isn't terribly worried about the debt because there are empty lots and market housing still to be sold to pay it down.

"It's a minimal debt that has equity behind it," he said.

"The residual inventory matches it, or more."

Once those are sold the balance should be paid off on the outstanding debt. The MFA portion will be paid off first, followed by the repayment to reserves.

That reserve money is being tracked at the hall and is charged interest so that there is no impact on the Whistler taxpayer.

That was always the idea behind the $161 million development - sales of the units post-Olympics would pay off the development. It was helped in part with a $35 million contribution from Olympic organizers as well as $8 million in municipal grant money from the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funds.

Before that money flowed to the Whistler Development Corporation (WDC) it used money from reserves. Then there was the cash infusion. After that sales began to pay down some of the debt.

But, after the Games, the WDC needed money to go into the units and convert them from Games-mode to legacy-mode. Bedrooms were transformed into kitchens, temporary walls were torn down, repairs done.

"These bills were paid by WDC, but as the market units were not yet all sold, amounts were advanced to WDC's bank account by RMOW," said a municipal spokesperson.

The issue at this time is the soft real estate market and the general economic downturn, which has impacted the sale of the market units.

The spokesperson added: "As the market units sell, WDC collects the money, and repays MFA and the RMOW... The repayment schedule is based on the projected sales of the market town homes and the market lots. Overall, between the market town homes and the market lots, to date we are on track for the sales projections."

The athletes' village debt is considered short-term debt at the municipality because it is getting paid down as quickly as possible.

There is also some long-term debt at the municipality - $2.6 million on Millennium Place, $1.7 million on the library, $14 million on the wastewater treatment plant upgrade, $5 million on the waste transfer station and $2 million on the composting system.

That does not include the money on the mortgages owned by the Whistler Housing Authority.



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