Mt. Sima is not getting new money from Whitehorse, but the Great Northern Ski Society is getting promised money earlier than scheduled.
With construction of Sima’s new chairlift ahead of schedule, council agreed Wednesday to extend the ski society’s credit limit to $900,000 from $600,000 on a $1.6-million grant issued by the city in June.
“Because of our construction schedule, we’ve asked for some of that money in advance,” said society president Craig Hougen. “Not only are we on budget, we’re two weeks ahead of schedule.
“It’s the same $1.6 million we’ve always had, we’re just drawing down on it a little sooner. We need the money earlier because we are ahead of schedule.”
Sima’s previous lift, which was 36 years old and bought secondhand in the early ‘90s, suffered an estimated 21 breakdowns last season, including one on opening day that led to the first evacuation of the lift in the resort’s 17-year history.
With $200,000 already granted to Sima, the city pulled $1.4 million slated for the Black Street reconstruction, and gave it to the ski society. The Black Street project received an equivalent grant from Ottawa’s Building Canada Fund in May.
The transfer of the city grant was supposed to take place at the end of January.
“I wasn’t uncomfortable speeding up the process of giving them the money,” said Coun. Ranj Pillai. “We’ve already identified the dollars. If it was new money, then I’d have a problem with that.”
The ski society has been fundraising to drum up the remaining $1.4 million to cover the cost of the $3 million lift.
Coun. Betty Irwin, who has opposed using city money for the ski lift since the beginning, was the only one to vote against the credit extension at a special third reading on Wednesday.
“I maintain the Great Northern Ski Society is a not-for-profit organization, and a lot of not-for-profit organizations have to do fundraising to make ends meet. They can’t just be coming to government for handouts to bail them out,” said Irwin.
“I was opposed to the $1.6 million because I thought, ‘Wow, for a chairlift at the ski hill?’ When so much else has to be done?
“There are certainly lots of other recreational groups that need money as well,” added Irwin, who supported the city paying for the resurfacing of the Mt. McIntyre tennis courts this past summer.
The new lift, which is scheduled to be ready for the start of the ski season, will be a fixed-grip quad chairlift, manufactured and installed by Doppelmeyr Lifts Limited.
The quad lift will be capable of transporting up to 1,800 passengers an hour, about twice as many as the old lift.
A functional chairlift at Mt. Sima will become crucial when Whitehorse hosts the 2012 Arctic Winter Games next March.
With an injection of $1.5 million from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (Cannor) last summer, Mt. Sima is also currently building an adventure park on its premises to open next spring. WildPlay Yukon, as it will be called, will transform Sima into a year-round operation and will require a chairlift for its zip line operations.
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