RMOW looks for title sponsor 

No estimate of what naming rights worth

In the face of continually rising construction costs, municipal staff is investigating the possibility of a title sponsor for the new public library.

But they won’t get just anyone to put their name on the building.

Council has raised concerns about overt commercialization of a public institution such as the library.

“I couldn’t live with the Coke Whistler Library,” said Mayor Ken Melamed.

To his mind buildings such as libraries and schools are some of the few places where commercialization is not appropriate. This was one of the reasons why the previous council voted against a title sponsor when they approved building a new library.

“(It’s) the whole idea of commercializing something that really by and large is free of commercialization,” he later explained.

But there are hints this week that there could be budget stresses to the $9.7 million project.

A revised budget has not been issued to council yet and no estimate was put forward for what naming rights might be worth. But the municipality’s manager of parks and facilities planning services, Martin Pardoe, spoke to some of the ongoing challenges of building the library in the current booming construction climate.

There have been delays surrounding issues with the roof structure in addition to late delivery of certain materials. Exacerbating the issue even further is the loss of skilled labour to other more lucrative job sites in Whistler.

The opening date has been pushed back another month, to July 2007. That date is also dependent on available labour and suppliers in the coming months.

In his report to council Pardoe said: “Extending the project schedule may impact project cost.”

Two years ago council approved building a $7 million library in the heart of the village. The following year that budget was revised at more than $8 million. Six months ago council granted another $1.42 million budget increase.

Councillor Gord McKeever, who voted against looking for a title sponsor during his last term on council, said it now behooves council to investigate the possibility.

That’s not to say staff has carte blanche in finding any sponsor to offset the costs, he said, rather they’ll be looking for a sponsor that’s appropriate.

Three years ago Tourism Whistler signed a deal with Telus to be title sponsor of the newly renovated Whistler Conference Centre. It was a 10-year agreement and in addition to the naming rights Telus became the preferred supplier of Tourism Whistler’s telecommunication needs. The dollar figure of the deal was never released.

In the end council voted unanimously in favour of finding an appropriate title sponsor for the library.

“If we can do this, then we need to do it,” said Councillor Ralph Forsyth.

On a more positive note staff has secured a $500,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). The grant is the maximum grant that can be awarded in the FCM program.

The FCM has also awarded Whistler a low interest loan for up to $3.5 million.

Both amounts are to be used for environmental initiatives.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler was pleased to hear about that particularly as he was instrumental in keeping several environmental components in the library at a time when Whistler was looking to reduce capital costs.

“What a tremendous vote of confidence in this building,” he said of the FCM news.

The library will be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited building.

Zeidler’s insistence, with council’s support, on keeping the low flush toilets, the $5,000 skylight to allow natural light in the parkade stairs and a specific air handling system, could have tipped the scales in favour of the half million grant.

“It’s a good thing we did stick with them,” agreed Pardoe.

The next project update report will include information on the budget.

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