Muni commits $350K to Cheakamus heating repairs 

Residents requiring extensive repairs are eligible for a maximum $1,000 rebate

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After years of headaches and thousands of dollars in repairs, Cheakamus Crossing residents are set to receive some financial relief from the municipality to bring the neighbourhood's heating system up to snuff.

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, at its regular meeting, council voted to lend $350,000 to the Whistler 2020 Development Corp., developers of Cheakamus Crossing, to make repairs to the District Energy System (DES) heating units that require it. The money will come from the municipality's 2016 general contingency fund.

"There are a number of items we believe need to be addressed to ensure users' confidence that the units are operating at a proper level of efficiency, dependability, and so on," WDC head Eric Martin told council.

The DES is a closed ambient heating method that captures waste heat from Whistler's sewage treatment plant to pump into homes that was touted by officials as an energy-efficient, cost-effective system in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics. But the reality is the complicated system has led to persistent problems for many residents, and in some cases thousands of dollars in repair and maintenance costs. A 2015 poll found that 80 per cent of Cheakamus residents surveyed were not satisfied with the system.

The Home DES Repair and Maintenance Program will be carried out in two phases. In Phase 1, WDC will pay for a one-time inspection and repair of any deficiencies identified in participating units. Martin said WDC has come up with a list of eight common deficiencies, or "tasks," to be carried out in individual units that were determined by a study of nine heating systems this fall. WDC also commissioned an assessment of DES units in 19 of the 174 townhomes in Cheakamus this past spring. All work will be carried out by WDC-approved technicians.

If more significant problems are found, WDC has committed to paying 50 per cent of the required repair costs in Phase 2, up to a maximum of $1,000 per property. This rebate, which is available until February 2017, cannot be applied to previous repair costs.

"This is to undertake repairs to improve operations and to enhance, and in some cases, create homeowner satisfaction," Martin noted.

While he applauded the municipality and WDC for taking action, Cheakamus Crossing resident representative Tony Routley understands the $1,000 rebate may come as "cold comfort" to residents who've already spent exorbitant sums on a system they've struggled to understand.

"We're not going to get everything we'd like to have, and moving forward, this should resolve a lot of the problems that we're having and give us a smooth-running system," he said. "It would be extremely difficult to get any kind of a deal if we force the issue of paying everybody every cent they've already spent. Would I like to see it? Sure. I just don't see it as workable moving forward to have repairs done in a timely fashion."

Routley will work with WDC to prioritize repairs in units with the biggest problems in order to ensure heating systems are running properly ahead of the winter.

Cheakamus residents will also have the option to sign up for recommended annual maintenance of their system provided to WDC at a bulk rate by approved technicians. All costs for this ongoing program will be the responsibility of the property owners.

To participate in the program, residents must fill out and send WDC an application package. They must also email wdc@whistler.ca to set up a date for a technician to come to their home and carry out the Phase 1 work. If more work is required under Phase 2, they will need to contact WDC.

"Cheakamus Crossing, get onboard, take advantage of this," Routley urged residents.

Homeowners in the neighbourhood can apply for the program after Oct. 24 at www.cheakamuscrossing.ca.

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