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Plastic bags debate hits local schools

RMOW can "regulate" the types of shopping bags used by businesses

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Local high school and elementary school students are getting in on the plastic bag debate swirling around Whistler.

After last week's council meeting where the issue to regulate the use of bags was brought forward and then put off in the efforts of doing more research, some teachers and students have been looking at ways to do their own work on the subject.

The high school students are making a video to address the issues around regulation of bags.

Jane Millen's Grade 6 French Immersion class at Spring Creek Community School is continuing to discuss the ways to regulate the use of bags and hope to come to council with a small presentation and a plea for it to regulate bags in the coming weeks.

It was students in her class, after all, that got the debate rolling again when they asked Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden to ban the plastic bags last fall.

"It's so exciting," said Millen, of the chain of events that has council seriously considering action.

"I'm hoping that the students see that they can be empowered to make a change. If they work at it, they can do it. They're totally capable."

But if making a decision to outlaw plastic bags at local stores were an easy one, it would have been done already, said Bruce Stewart, general manager at Nesters Market.

For the past four years Whistler has been grappling with the issue of what to do about the millions of plastic bags used in the resort.

"I think we all would agree that we'd like to see a reduction in plastic bags," added Stewart. "Bans make me a little nervous, I guess, unless we know we're doing the right thing."

Council does not have the authority to ban plastic shopping bags, as per the Community Charter, but it can regulate the types of shopping bags that retail business offer to customers. For example, it could regulate the use of reusable bags.

What any potential regulations looks like, however, still remains to be seen.

Municipal CAO Mike Furey convinced council to hold off on any decisions until he, and staff, have time to investigate and canvass local grocers.

"I'm really happy that the muni has stepped back and wants to work with us as well so that we can all decide this together, I hope," said Stewart.

No date for Sunday library openings until money approved

Though all indications are pointing to Sunday openings at the library this year, the chair of the library board won't make any timing commitments until the money is officially in the bank.

"We're excited that it may happen but that's the extent of where we're at," said Gord Annand this week.

"We're not deciding anything until we get the funds.

"So once it's all approved and finalized we'll look at that."

Last week council directed municipal staff to prepare the budget bylaws for the 2013-2017 Five Year Financial Plan. Included in that direction to staff was a $60,000 increase in services to the public library for Sunday openings.

That brings the total library budget for 2013 to more than $950,000.

When grants and library revenue of roughly $130,000 is factored in, the total cost to the municipality this year is $820,529.

That includes $85,000 for library collection and $42,000 for furniture and equipment, which will be funded from reserves.

The budget bylaws are expected to come before council for consideration at the March 5 meeting, with bylaw adoption scheduled for March 19.

The next library board meeting will take place on Wednesday evening.

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