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Squamish looks for ways to save Squamish-Whistler commuter bus



Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner made a recommendation to staff to evaluate the existing service for the bus commute between Squamish and Whistler.

Staff was also directed to look for an alternative service arrangement. A report back to the council with recommendations is expected before Nov. 2, 2010.

Bus fares for the commuter bus have been hiked to $8 from $5, with the Resort Municipality of Whistler passing a "strong" message to Squamish, saying it won't pick up its share of the tab after the arrangement expires at the end of December.

At the regular council meeting on Oct. 5, Councillor Paul Lalli said he had been approached by at least a dozen constituents who expressed their displeasure at the possibility that the commuter bus will be discontinued.

"I'm disappointed," Lalli said, "we have a lot of people who travel from Squamish to Whistler and these employees help the business up there. Plus, from a climate perspective, I think this service needs to be continued."

Councillor Corrine Lonsdale said the hotel industry in Whistler should also think of ways that it could help to overcome the challenges raised by the issue.

Whistler hoteliers, who employ many of the people who use the commuter bus, were meeting Wednesday to discuss the situation.


Concern expressed over independent power project

Squamish council has concerns about a proposed 25 MW run-of-river hydroproject that may be located on Skookum Creek, about 11 kilometres east of the Upper Mamquam River Watershed.

Council directed staff to write a letter to the project proponent expressing concerns about a range of issues, from steep slopes to the widening of the existing transmission corridors.

Staff also felt that a Whitewater Use Study on Skookum Creek that was done should be taken into account. There may also be significant impacts on a signature trail, the Ring Creek Rip, and there might be additional impacts to other trails.

Councillor Patricia Heintzman said the concerns articulated by the staff should be accompanied by a separate letter from the Mayor on the issue.


Squamish Fire Rescue to upgrade tools

Squamish council approved funding of $11,500 to Squamish Fire Rescue to upgrade its vehicle extrication equipment.

The funding for the modern vehicle extrication equipment would be contingent on a matching Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) grant the fire department will be applying for.

"Squamish Fire Rescue does not have adequate capacity or capability with its current extrication equipment. The addition of the requested equipment will increase our vehicle rescue capability," a report from staff stated.

The additional equipment, staff said, will improve the ability of Squamish Fire Rescue to provide timely and effective vehicle rescue capabilities.


Tax exemption bylaw given third reading

Squamish council passed a motion to give property tax exemptions to 14 organizations in Squamish.

These exemptions, referred to as the permissive tax exemptions, differ from the general tax exemptions in that the decision to grant an exemption is entirely at the council's discretion.

The total value of the 2010 tax exemptions granted is $357,104. Based on a five per cent annual increase, the tax exemption could go up to $413,393 by 2014.

Some Squamish councillors expressed concern over the tax exemptions, saying there needs to be wider debate on who receives an exemption and who doesn't.

"I'm not comfortable letting this go, especially because of the implication on community grant programs," Councillor Bryan Raiser said.

Mayor Gardner and Councillors Lalli and Heintzman shared his concern and called for a debate on the issue.

"We need a bigger discussion on who should qualify for basically what is a subsidy for these taxpayers," Heintzman said.



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