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Council needs more info before giving out money

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Councillor Ralph Forsyth convinced council this week that it needed more information and internal debate before doling out more than $1 million over two years to some community organizations.

His request was prompted by a series of "fee for service" agreements with four organizations. They are: $240,000 for MY Millennium Place, $164,000 for the Whistler Arts Council, roughly $120,000 for the Whistler Museum and Archives Society and $60,000 for Whistler Animals Galore.

"All I'm asking is that it (the process) remain consistent with the past four years," said Forsyth, explaining that council had more information before making these decisions in years past.

It's even more necessary, he added, given that three of the four "fee for service" agreements - Millennium Place, the museum and the arts council - are asking for the same fees for 2009 and 2010.

In response to pushback from Councillor Ted Milner who said he wasn't interested in doing an audit of WAG's balance sheets, Forsyth explained that he was simply looking for information and discussion similar to previous years.

Councillor Tom Thomson was also looking to approve WAG's fee for service Tuesday night. It was the first of the four to come to council for approval.

Second-term councilor Eckhard Zeidler, however, echoed Forsyth's comments about the change in process from previous years.

"We're not talking about WAG here... We're talking about process," he said.

"My comfort level comes from doing my homework... I don't believe that now is the time for us to go with less information, less detail."

The "fee for service" agreements are slated to be back for council's consideration at the next council meeting.

Economic times reflected in grant program

Council is redirecting roughly $35,000 in grant money through the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) to help it meet the foundation's legal requirements in these trying economic times.

At the request of the CFOW's executive director Kerry Chalmers, council is rerouting grant money to the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association, the Get Bear Smart Society and the Whistler Naturalists Society.

The money will now flow through the community foundation to the three organizations, rather than directly from the municipality.

Chalmers explained that like other community foundations across the country, the CFOW, which grows and manages 26 different endowment funds, is also struggling to manage its portfolio.

"We have not been immune to losses," she said.

This year the CFOW board of directors made the difficult decision, added Chalmers, not to grant anything from its endowment funds. But it is required by law to disperse 3.5 per cent of the value of its endowment base. Council's approval of the flow-through funds assists the CFOW in meeting legal requirements.

Council gave the go-ahead to redirect the money for these organizations, which was granted through the Community Enrichment Program (CEP) grants.

Other big grants through the CEP program were: $15,000 to the Whistler Children's Centre Society, $10,000 to the Sea to Sky Community Services Society and $10,000 to the Whistler Film Festival.

Grants totaled almost $150,000 this year to 20 community organizations. Groups had asked council for more than $400,000.

Last year the municipality gave out $172,000 through the CEP, down by one third from 2007.

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