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Forsyth tasked with finance and audit portfolio

Feature excerpt: The RMOW Files

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Coun. Ralph Forsyth is taking a sensible view of his own Finance and Audit portfolio.

"For me, the approach is always to find value for the taxpayer in everything that we do," he says.

"I suppose the biggest thing is the financing of it—how are we financing these projects, and is now the right time?"

In short, Forsyth wants to see transparency on municipal project finances, such as the $6-million Gateway Loop project (the finances of which are expected to be detailed at an upcoming council meeting).

"These things, I think some people in the community want a public execution. I just want a public accounting of how it all goes," he says.

"The staff work hard and I think they do a good job, I just want to have an understanding of how these things happen."

When it was first announced, Forsyth's portfolio was dubbed Infrastructure and Community Investment before being renamed to Audit and Finance.

Aside from some potential maintenance for the nearly-25-year-old Meadow Park Sports Centre, Forsyth says his approach to the municipal books will be one of frugality.

"There's nothing big that I want to see built, that's for sure," he says, noting that the municipality must also be aware of when the best time to invest is.

"I remember years ago we were going to do a renovation of city hall, and people went crazy because it was going to cost like $2 million or something like that. Well, guess what? If we tried to do a renovation of municipal hall now, it would be $20 million," he says. (Editor's Note: Back in 2007, the RMOW proposed a budget of $5.7 million for the renovation of municipal hall. Eight months later, that projected costs had ballooned to nearly $16 million.)

"So I want to make sure that if we're going to do things that we're going to stick to our guns and do them, so that we're not stuck having to pay a lot later. But there's no shiny new stuff that I want to see."

That being said, the 2019 budget—which Whistlerites will get to see in draft form for the first time at an open house in February—will no doubt include some big-ticket infrastructure items.

On Jan. 7, the RMOW issued a Request for Proposals for water main replacement in White Gold (similar to a multi-million dollar project completed in Alpine in 2017).

Other infrastructure projects planned for 2019 include a significant rebuild of the Spruce Grove Sewer lift station; major relining of the trunk sewer between Alta Lake Road and Function Junction; the Meadow Park cardio room expansion, and; three new washroom buildings in Whistler Village.

In 2018, property taxes went up 2.25 per cent, solid waste user fees went up 4.5-per-cent and sewer parcel taxes 1.1-per-cent, while there was no increase to water rates.

Any proposed tax changes for 2019 will be revealed at the February budget open house.

You can reach Forsyth at 604-935-8229 or rforsyth@whistler.ca.

Read the full-length feature 'The RMOW Files' here.

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