Two weeks not enough to fix helipad 

Whistler council is saying two weeks is not enough time to complete upgrades to the helipad at the medical clinic.

Following an inspection by Transport Canada last December, the agency has said that mandatory corrective actions need to be completed in the next two weeks, which includes the trimming and possible removal of trees in between day skier lot 4 and Lorimer Road.

Mayor Ken Melamed said at Tuesday's council meeting that is simply not enough time, calling it "shameful" that the work on the report was done almost a year ago and now the RMOW is being forced to comply with a two-week deadline or else Transport Canada will close the helipad.

"I'd like to call their bluff," Melamed said, adding that he can't "believe that Transport Canada would put lives at stake and force us into this situation in two weeks."

He said that council would like to see an extension on that deadline.

"We would have appreciated a bit more time to work through this and find some solutions," he said.

"I understand that the feds are requiring this but my only request would be whatever we can do to preserve as much of that tree stock as much as possible. It just seems such a tragedy for those trees to have to come down," said Councillor Ralph Forsyth, adding that he'd be willing to sacrifice some parking spaces in the parking lot to save trees.

Larry Harder, director of capital projects for Vancouver Coastal Health, made the request to council for approval to do the upgrades. While Vancouver Coastal Health and the Sea to Sky Regional Health District will share the cost, the construction will take place on municipal land.

Harder said they would need an extension in order to complete the project.

Councillor Chris Quinlan agreed that the timing on the project is an issue but said that he could not "in any way of good conscience be part of calling Transport Canada's bluff" on whether they'll close the helipad.

"It's completely irresponsible of us to take political stands based on political views on conserving the trees in one part of our town when they can have a negative and serious impact on the efficiencies of the ambulance service," he said.

"We have to get over this just being upset about the timing and actually deal with the issue."

Transport Canada identified three major areas in need of upgrades when the inspections were done last December. These include the replacement of the pad itself, the height of the trees and the height of a light post.

Transport Canada has also called for mandatory road closures at Blackcomb Way and Lorimer Road while helicopters are landing. Harder said that will likely entail a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week security person. When a helicopter is about to land the security person would have to go out and stop traffic.

The project budget is $500,000. Vancouver Coastal will pay 60 per cent of the project while the Sea to Sky Regional Health District will cover the remaining costs.

According to the report to council, the helipad is used on average seven times per week, with three times during the off-season and 10 times during peak season.


Olympic Plaza Pavilion approved

Council unanimously approved plans for the Olympic Plaza Pavilion Tuesday.

The building will hold temporary seating for 200-500 people and will be a flexible space for public use during all seasons.

The proposed design presented to council was of a covered outdoor venue with steel detailing and wood integration that will integrate green design principles. It will also maximize views of the mountains.

The stage will be located under the roof with the option of rolling out onto the lawn for larger performances.

The plan, according to Jan Jansen general manager of resort experience for the RMOW, is for the sight to be active at all times throughout the year. He added that construction of the plaza is on schedule and on budget.

"We are where we want to be and need to be at this point."

Mayor Ken Melamed asked if solar panels for the roof of the pavilion could be included in the design.

"This would be a high profile location for both a green roof and a solar panel roof, if it makes financial sense," he said.

Council also approved the awarding of the building contract to Vancouver-based Colony Management Inc. for the amount of $1,362,544.



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