As part of its 2017 budgeting process, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has released its proposed project list ahead of a community open house set for next week.
The 2017-2021 Five-Year Financial Plan consists of 182 projects costing $35,148,179. That’s up from the roughly $25 million slated for 2017 in last year’s financial plan, due primarily to the $9.2 million left over from the 2016 budget.
“Council set priorities for the budget in our strategic planning sessions last year, and what we emphasized was continued excellence in the delivery of services, delivery on the existing work plan that’s already been passed, and the commitments that are set out in the Corporate Plan,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “In other words, we don’t want to take a short left turn, we want to carry on and get stuff done that’s already in the pipes.”
Some of the bigger-ticket items on this year’s project list include:
-$6.8-million for a “significant upgrade” to the village Gateway Loop area that was approved at Tuesday’s meeting of council.
-$160,000 this year, plus $3.993 million allocated in next year’s budget for the analysis and site selection of a proposed artificial turf soccer field. This is down from the project’s original cost estimates.
“In December, the project was ranged between $4.2 million and $6.2 million, and we were looking at six sites, so that range addressed those six sites. We do have a report coming to council at the first meeting in March, and it’s going to make recommendations on honing in on one particular site, and if we do that we’ll be able to drop the cost of the turf field down even further,” noted Wilhelm-Morden.
-$1.746 million for the maintenance of five village parkades that the municipality is responsible for.
-$1.65 million for a major recurring paving project.
-$1.645 million for the construction of a new waste depot on a former Fortis Gas site on Nesters Road. This includes an $850,000 interest-free loan to the Whistler Community Services Society to assist with the construction of their new facility that will enable the organization to consolidate all of its operations to a single building that's close to the village.
-$1.565 million to replace the existing Emerald water station.
-$1.1 million for ongoing work as part of the Alpine water-main replacement.
-$814,950 for a number of FireSmart projects throughout the resort that will rely on acquiring additional provincial funding.
“This has really come up the priority list as a result of the studies we’ve had, and of course seeing the (2016) disaster in Fort McMurray, and the smoke that was hanging in the valley two years ago (as a result of nearby wildfires). So it is something we are paying attention to in a very serious way,” said Wilhelm-Morden.
The mayor said one of the RMOW’s major priorities this year is to minimize the “the unintended consequences” of the resort’s climbing visitor numbers. To that end, staff has proposed allocating $95,000 to the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing for work that will include land planning for Whistler Housing Authority projects and a housing needs and demand survey. Another $100,000 has also been budgeted for the “proactive enforcement” of illegal nightly rentals and assistance with business licensing for legal rentals.
On the transportation file, the RMOW has budgeted $100,000 to update several traffic studies that will allow the municipal Transportation Advisory Group to “consider the current problems and potential solutions” to Whistler’s traffic issues. Another $30,000 has been slated for a consulting study on the economic impacts of delays on Highway 99, along with $60,000 to replace outdated road sensors in municipal traffic lights.
Other proposed budget commitments of note:
-$289,286 to add a section to the Valley Trail along the front of the Meadow Park Sports Centre that would allow for “safer access” to the facility for pedestrians and cyclists.
-$150,000 for the development of the Russet Lake Hut, the first backcountry hut included in the Spearhead Huts System project.
-$100,000 over four years to put towards the Audain Art Museum’s eventual $25-million endowment fund, making the RMOW a founding member of the museum.
Wilhelm-Morden explained the impetus for the contributions: “The interest from that endowment will supplement the revenues for admission, memberships rentals and so on, so the gallery won’t operate at a deficit, and furthermore, so the gallery won’t need to ask the municipality for financial assistance on an annual basis with its operation budget.”
-$75,000 to “advance and catalyze” incremental educational opportunities in the resort.
-$40,000 for the relocation of the Whistler Cenotaph to Olympic Plaza to “better accommodate Remembrance Day ceremonies and improve the visibility of the cenotaph on a year round basis.” The proposal comes as something of a surprise considering the RMOW axed plans last year to move the war memorial, currently located in a parking lot behind the fire hall on Village Gate Boulevard, a spot some in the community believe is too hidden from public view. Wilhelm-Morden even went so far as saying in November that the cenotaph probably wouldn’t relocate “as long as I’m around.”
-$45,000 for bear management in the community.
-$30,000 for enhanced police, fire and bylaw enforcement during key dates on the event calendar, such as the Pemberton Music Festival, Crankworx and May long weekend.
-$25,000 for ecosystem monitoring.
-$15,000 for a First Nations Cultural Liaison.
The RMOW is hosting a community open house for residents to discuss this year’s proposed budget with elected officials and staff today from 4 to 7 p.m., with a presentation by the RMOW at 5 p.m.
“Our budget process expands over the course of the entire year,” explained Wilhelm-Morden. “We use input from our committees, from the surveys we do, and from the open houses we have.”
You can view the proposed budget in full at www.whistler.ca/sites/default/files/2017/Feb/related/4347/proposed_project_budgets.pdf.