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Largest fleet of fuel cell buses for Whistler

In time for 2010

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By Alison Taylor

The biggest worldwide fuel cell bus project is coming to Whistler.

In last week’s Throne Speech, the province announced a federal-provincial partnership that would be investing $89 million for fuelling stations and the world’s first fleet of 20 fuel cell buses. They will be coming to Whistler in the fall of 2009 just in time for the 2010 Winter Games.

Bruce Rothwell, the manager of the Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Program, was at council Monday night to give an update on the program.

The buses are expected to have a 20-year life span and the Whistler fuelling station is expected to be complete by the summer of 2009.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler expressed concerns that the buses would just be used as a demonstration project for the Games and then be moved out of Whistler to Victoria.

“I’m getting progressively more interested in what are the solutions for this community in the long-term,” he said.

Rothwell confirmed B.C. Transit’s intent is to deploy the buses to Whistler for the long term. It wouldn’t make sense to invest in the refueling facilities in Whistler and then move the buses elsewhere, he added.

The fuelling stations will be part of the hydrogen highway running from Whistler to Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria. The province is also working with California and other Pacific states to push the highway from Whistler as far south as San Diego by 2010.

TWSSF asks council to foot police bill

Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival organizer Sue Eckersley has asked council to take care of the RCMP bill for this year’s event, which is expected to be $25,000.

In a presentation to council Monday night Eckersley explained the costs for additional officers has risen dramatically in recent years.

Last year the bill was $15,700. This year it is expected to increase almost $10,000.

“The costs have gone up substantially over the years,” she said.

That bill is in addition to the $30,000 organizers spend on private security.

Eckersley couched her request by highlighting the tremendous economic activity generated by the annual spring festival.

Last year the festival generated an estimated $37.7 million in economic activity across B.C. More than $21 million of that was in Whistler.

As of last April RCMP officers are not allowed to take on overtime shifts in a voluntary capacity and now must be paid for their work.

Sea to Sky Inspector Norm McPhail said he tries to draw officers for events like the TWSSF from local communities to reduce those overtime costs.

But the budget this year is expected to be $25,000.

The municipality covers the RCMP cost for events such as First Night.

Mayor Ken Melamed told Eckersley council would look at her request.

Gym owner worried about municipal competition

The owner of Whistler’s newest gym is taking issue with the municipality’s plans to build another large fitness facility as part of the tennis club redevelopment.

Bob Allison, owner of the new Core Climbing and Fitness Centre under the conference centre, expressed his concerns to council Monday night.

“I don’t think the RMOW should be opening businesses that compete directly with private businesses within their community,” he said.

Plans are underway as part of the Holborn redevelopment to build a revamped tennis facility as well as a gym and fitness facility the size of Meadow Park. The municipality is in discussions with the developer to take over the operations of the new facility once built.

“This would lead me to believe that like Meadow Park, this will be a tax-based supported facility and therefore no longer providing fair competition,” said Allison.

“I ask that the Tennis Club development remain open to private enterprise from the ground up and no special concessions be given that could potentially have adverse effects on existing businesses.”

Council did not comment on his presentation.

The Holborn Group wants to rezone its property from hotel zoning to market accommodation townhouses and apartment units. The latest proposal, which has not been approved by council, would see the developer build 181 unit of housing, 23 apartments for seniors and the new tennis and fitness facility.

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