Recreation/library facility to go referendum 

VOP and SLRD asking for endorsement of $6.7 million loan

Once again, the question of Pemberton and Area C’s recreational needs is going out to the community. This time the query is being submitted to the electors in the form of a referendum during the Nov. 19 municipal election.

While the Village of Pemberton has not yet passed a resolution to accept the wording of the referendum, the fact that council has adopted the professional Environmental Recreation Consultants final report suggests it is little more than a formality.

The question, which appeared as part of bylaw 963, which was adopted by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, reads as follows: "Are you in favour of adoption of Pemberton/Area C Community Recreation Building Load Authorization No. 963-2005, which will permit the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District to borrow $6,721,860 repayable by taxation within the Village of Pemberton and electoral Area C over a period of twenty-five years for the purpose of assisting the financing of the new Area C/Pemberton Community Centre/Library Complex? Yes or No?"

The requested amount of the loan reflects the total cost of the $5.6 million project and a 15 per cent contingency that was added as a result of a VOP/Area C Joint Services Committee recommendation.

Area C director Susie Gimse said that the increased amount of the loan was to insure that the project did not fall prey to increased building costs.

The facility in question is a community centre featuring a 3,000 sq. ft. weight room with a 4,000 sq. ft. library attached. Neither an ice rink nor a pool, both of which were put forth as preferred recreational options in a series of community forums, is part of this plan. The addition of a library was the result of a recommendation by PERC as a proven strategy to increase the likelihood of referendum passage. The $5.6 million figure put forth in PERC’s report also anticipated building cost increases of up to 12 per cent for 2006.

To offset costs, the VOP will attempt to access the $1.1 million provincial grant it received, but ultimately declined, earlier this year. (The funds were retuned when the community made it clear that a recreational facility without an ice arena was not acceptable.)

"We’re meeting with the minister in the next week and a half and asking for an extension of the grant. The original terms were for a March 2006 completion date," said Mayor Elinor Warner. "And we’ll also be asking for more money."

This plan to secure and increase provincial funding is in accordance with PERC’s proposed financing strategy. However, the consultants had put forth the idea that the $1.1 million in library funding be treated as a separate issue, and the total amount borrowed for the community centre be $3,380,520.

Although she said that a negative outcome for the referendum will put the recreation issue "back to square one," the mayor believes putting the issue to a vote on Nov. 19 is the right way to proceed.

"We’ve heard what people have said. They want us to go forward. They want an opportunity to vote on it," said Warner.

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