By Alison Taylor
The Whistler museum’s funding will not be increased this year despite a request from the organization to quadruple its Community Enrichment Program (CEP) grant.
Council approved an $80,000 grant for the museum, the same as last year, at Tuesday’s council meeting. That falls far short of the $331,000 request.
Councillor Eckhard Zeidler said the message from council is that it wants the museum to do “business as usual” despite being asked to do a number of things leading up to the 2010 Games.
He challenged council to begin providing clear direction to the museum board and tell them exactly what it wants them to do, adding that the funding decision is pulling the rug out from underneath their feet.
Mayor Ken Melamed explained the reason why the full amount was not granted was because council had not budgeted for that money. He agreed with Zeidler that a discussion with the museum board was in order.
Councillor Tim Wake said he did not feel the rug had been pulled from underneath the museum’s feet.
He added that the museum has a very important role to play, particularly in the lead up to the 2010 Games and after, and he believes it can deliver on the funding it’s been granted.
At the municipality’s request, the museum has undergone a master planning process. That plan that includes a long-term vision for a $14 million facility in Whistler. But among the first steps in the plan was the hiring of a full time, professional to guide the museum’s growth. Funding for that position was included in the CEP request.
The staff report states:
“Council has not endorsed the Master Plan and that is reflected in the recommendation to grant $80,000 for 2007.”
Zeidler, who is the council representative on the museum board, was the only member of council to oppose the grant.
The president of the museum board did not return phone calls by deadline Wednesday.
Whistler Animals Galore
For the second year in a row, council has reduced its funding for Whistler Animals Galore (WAG).
This year’s $50,000 grant is down $10,000 from the previous year and almost $25,000 from the year before that.
This year’s money will cover less than one third of the annual operating budget at the shelter. Other funding sources come from donations, fundraisers and impound/adoption fees, among other things.
While disappointing, the shelter’s acting executive director Joanne Russell said Whistler’s decision could force neighbouring communities to step up to the plate and contribute to what has essentially become a regional shelter.
“Realistically, the less that we have to rely on one community, it does put pressure on other communities to step up,” said Russell. “It’s a bad thing but it can be a good thing and that’s how we look at it.”
Just 31 per cent of animals that come to the shelter are from Whistler. Mount Currie has the highest number at 44 per cent, followed by Pemberton at 12 per cent. Other outlying areas in the region make up the rest.
And yet, despite efforts from WAG’s board of directors to appeal to other communities for funding, Whistler is the only community that contributes. The regional district gave a small grant last year but it is unclear if it will be renewed.
Councillor Zeidler highlighted the issue at the council table, suggesting that perhaps council needs to tell WAG it cannot accept animals from outside Whistler if the other communities will not participate.
He called the funding reduction over the past two years a “slow grinding” of resources.
“You call it a slow grinding, I call it a gentle let down,” said the mayor.
The message is that Whistler will not solely continue to fund the shelter and WAG must find other sources.
Whistler Arts Council
Of the three organizations to apply for the CEP grant funding, the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) was the only one to get its full request of $264,000.
That is an increase of more than $9,000 over last year.
A portion of the grant, $100,000, will go to cover the work of the “Office of Cultural Co-ordination.”
Doti Niedermayer, WAC’s executive director, explained that that office is a function of WAC and is in its second year.
“There has been a huge increase in the tasks and the responsibilities that the Whistler Arts Council is responsible for leading up to 2010 and that’s what that office is doing and that’s what that additional funding is for,” she said.
The money will fund planning, community consultation, and consultants fees, among other things.
She credited councils past and present for their vision in sustaining the arts in Whistler.