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WAG secures increased municipal funding



Whistler Animals Galore is getting more municipal funding that ever before.

On Monday night council approved funding at almost $75,000 for the animal shelter, which is on the verge of moving into its new home on Nesters Road beside the bottle depot. Last year the RMOW commitment was $63,000.

The money will be paid out in monthly installments of $6,100.

The increased funding is good news for WAG and will allow the shelter to have three full-time staff.

"It’s something that we feel is really necessary to address the issue of staff burnout and for more programming," said WAG’s executive director Carol Coffey.

Despite attempts to secure funding from other regional partners, WAG was not able to get much money. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District kicked in $3,000 and the Village of Pemberton was unable to contribute this year. This, despite the fact, that most of the animals that come to WAG are not from Whistler but rather other parts of the region. Coffey said they will be approaching the regional partners next year for more funding.

WAG has also formed a new partnership with Mount Currie and received $7,000 from the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada for a spay and neutering program there. WAG may need more funds before it begins to implement that program.

Sandra Smith, supervisor of bylaw services, explained that most of the municipal funding goes towards wages for WAG staff as well as the day to day running of the shelter.

The shelter makes about $150 each month through a portion of the sales of dog licences and impound fees.

Province, RMOW to commit to bear officer

Whistler is one step closer to having a dedicated bear response officer in the community.

On Monday night council agreed to initiate a letter of agreement with the province for the program.

The officer is set to be on the ground in Whistler by July 4.

The position will be filled for eight months a year, from May to December. The municipality will kick in $30,000, which is half the cost of the officer’s wages per season. The province will make up the difference.

The position of a Bear Response Officer comes out of recommendations from the Whistler Bear Working Group. That group produced a number of recommendations including the need for an electric fence at the landfill and the conversion to bear proof garbage cans. Both steps have limited bears’ access to garbage in the community.

Last year the group recommended that Whistler have a designated bear response officer to deal with the large volume of bear calls.

Conservation Services will provide the officer as well as a vehicle, equipment and tools. The officer will support the use of non-lethal aversion techniques for problem bears.

In the meantime the municipality continues to pursue designation as a Bear Smart Community. Whistler will need to meet a number of criteria before getting the special designation.

Fuel cell bus fleet for resort by 2008

Whistler could be one of the first communities in the world to have a fleet of fuel cell buses, operating with zero emissions.

The news came on Monday night, during a presentation about the Hydrogen Highway – the ambitious project to build seven hydrogen fuelling stations from the Lower Mainland, Victoria and through the Sea to Sky corridor.

Alison Grigg, manager of the Hydrogen Highway project with Fuel Cells Canada, presented council with updated information on Monday night. In her report she said B.C. Transit has plans to put 20 fuel cell buses into full time regular service in Victoria and Whistler.

To date, the alternative energy has only been showcased in demonstration projects and no country or agency has used a fleet of buses in a significant operational setting.

Whistler would need a local fuel cell fuelling station to power these buses, which is part of the bigger picture of connecting the Hydrogen Highway up the corridor.

The goal is to have the fuel cell technology on display by 2010, which means the buses should begin regular service no later than the fall of 2008.

B.C. Transit is committed to funding the equivalent cost of 20 diesel buses. In order the complete the project senior governments as well as the private sector will need to kick in with more funding.

Last year council endorsed the Hydrogen Highway, officially committing Whistler as the northern node in the highway.