Whistler braces itself as May long weekend approaches 

Council briefs: WHA building nears construction; Customer service software contract awarded

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - Seeking solutions A police officer guards the scene on the morning after 19-year-old Luka Gordic was killed in Whistler Village on May long weekend 2015.
  • File photo by Braden Dupuis
  • Seeking solutions A police officer guards the scene on the morning after 19-year-old Luka Gordic was killed in Whistler Village on May long weekend 2015.

Whistler's much-maligned May long weekend is just around the corner, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is once again preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

At the April 19 meeting of Whistler council, Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of the Whistler RCMP and Norm McPhail, chair of the May Long Weekend Committee, outlined the RMOW's plans for the 2016 edition of the notorious weekend.

"The key strategy for the May long weekend is high visibility," McPhail said in a presentation to council.

To achieve that, RCMP members will be working extended shifts, with more officers brought in from Squamish and the Lower Mainland. The Whistler Fire Rescue Service and RMOW Bylaw Department will also help with patrols.

Police will conduct road safety checks, foot patrols in the village and bike patrols in the parks. There will be zero tolerance for public intoxication, open liquor, general disturbances, fights or weapons.

"Another component that the RMOW is adding this year is private security for areas that are not necessarily as frequented by the police," McPhail said.

"This is to protect private property and also to conduct patrols to see if there's any problems."

The public is asked to report any incidents they see occurring.

Calls for service over the 2015 May long weekend were down compared to 2014 — from 200 to 169 — and police put about half as many people in their holding cells last year compared to 2014, LeClair said.

"Last year we only had 20 prisoners, and we're trying to keep the number of arrests down," LeClair said, adding that when police come across grossly intoxicated people, the intent is to get them home safe with a sober friend.

"Having said that, people who are causing problems are going to spend the night or the weekend with us, whatever the case may be," he said.

GO Fest (or the Great Outdoors Festival) returns for its third installment, with an emphasis on celebrating Whistler's natural environment.

Head to www.greatoutdoorsfest.com for a full slate of events.

"There's been a lot of good work that's gone into (the weekend)," LeClair said. "We're hoping that it's going to be safe and enjoyable for everybody."

Also at the April 19 meeting, council approved changes to the May Long Weekend Committee's terms of reference.

The committee will stay active into at least 2016 and 2017, the membership will be expanded to include representatives from the liquor primary and retail merchants sectors and the membership terms will be expanded from one year to two.

May long weekend is May 20 to 23.

WHA building in Cheakamus closer to construction

With the proper zoning now in place, the RMOW and Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) are working through the finer details of a new resident-restricted housing complex in Cheakamus — namely, the funding.

The expected cost of developing the building is $6 million.

The RMOW has about $2.2 million to invest in employee housing, while the WHA has about $1 million to contribute. The rest will have to be borrowed.

At its April 19 meeting, council authorized the municipality to borrow up to $5 million from the Municipal Finance Authority, which will then be re-loaned to the WHA.

The funds will be accessed as needed throughout the construction process.

The next step for the project is building permits, with the ultimate aim of having the building occupied by the fall of 2017.

CONTRACT AWARDED FOR ONLINE CUSTOMER SERVICE SOFTWARE

Whistler is moving forward with an upgrade to its online customer service through a software technology known as the Civic Platform.

At its April 19 meeting, council awarded a contract for the implementation of the service to B.C.-based Avocette Technologies.

The technology itself was developed by Accela Inc, out of California.

Once implemented, Whistlerites will be able to inform the RMOW of deficiencies — like say, a pothole or malfunctioning street light — or even submit a Freedom of Information request with just a few taps on their smartphone or tablet.

The requests are sent electronically to the appropriate department and staff is alerted immediately.

When the pothole is filled, the citizen receives an email informing them the job is done.

The program also allows for archival and management of customer service data, which will allow for future cost savings within the municipality.

It's expected that the implementation and software costs will total $1.21 million over the first five years, with estimated annual costs of $270,000 after it's in place.

It's estimated that the Civic Platform will save the RMOW more than $1 million in the first five years by extending the life of infrastructure and catching problems like sewer overflow and water main breaks before they get out of hand.

MAXX FISH GETS EXTENDED HOURS FOR WEDDING AFTERPARTY

A private event at Maxx Fish this June could attract some exclusive clientele.

The Whistler Village nightclub is preparing to host an invite-only wedding afterparty on June 4 for the founder and owner of a film production company.

The guest list has about 150 names on it, some of them belonging to celebrities and film industry personalities.

At its April 19 meeting, council voted 5 to 2 to extend the club's liquor license to 4 a.m. for the night of June 4. Councillors Sue Maxwell and Jen Ford voted against.

Liquor license hours are typically only extended when there are "extraordinary benefits" to the community. Ford questioned the reasoning behind allowing the extension.

"I fail to see where the extraordinary community benefit is... (it's) 150 guests to a private wedding," Ford said.

"Staff had reviewed the application and felt that this particular group and the clientele that they brought were of benefit to the resort," replied manager of resort experience Jan Jansen.

"They were staying overnight and they were driving some business, so on that basis we thought it was merited."

TAX AND UTILITY BYLAWS GET FIRST THREE READINGS

Council also gave first three readings to its 2016 property tax and utility rate bylaws at the April 19 meeting.

The bylaws include a 1.5-per-cent increase to property taxes, a 1.3-per-cent increase to water parcel taxes and user fees and a 1.2-per-cent increase to sewer parcel taxes and fees.

The bylaws will be up for adoption at the May 3 Whistler council meeting.

The RMOW's 2016 Five-Year Financial Plan, which received first three readings on April 5, was adopted at the April 19 meeting.

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