Olympic economic development question goes public 

New position would cost taxpayers an average of $33.60

By Cindy Filipenko

A bylaw that would allow for creation of an Olympic Opportunities Officer position has received third reading from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board of directors.

Fostering economic development for Pemberton and Electoral Area C has been on the agenda since the last municipal election. In the coming weeks, residents of this area will decide whether to support the creation of a $60,000 per year position that would remain in effect until Dec. 30, 2010.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy introduced the concept of a joint Village of Pemberton and SLRD funded economic development officer (EDO) in September. At that time the EDO was not tied specifically to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games and had an estimated wage of $100,000 per year.

Headed by the Chamber of Commerce, requests for incremental funding from both the VOP and SLRD failed. The concept of a specific Olympic Opportunities Officer emerged as a result of a community organizing workshop led by Dolly Hopkins and held in conjunction with Soul Down.

Hopkins, director of Vancouver’s Public Dreams Society, has a long history of successful festival organization.

Pemberton’s Winterfest Committee, an offshoot of Pemberton’s Olympic Spirit Committee, has expressed hopes to leverage Winterfest during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games similar to the way Heber City, Utah realized economic benefit from its proximity to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games.

Last month, Shirley Henry, secretary for the Chamber of Commerce, was on hand at the VOP's last meeting of the year to request that the Spirit Committee be reinstated as a “select committee” of council.

“The main reason we did this was for insurance. The insurance implications of events like Winterfest are more than the chamber can handle. Also (the Spirit Committee) takes a lot of (chamber president) Paul’s (Selina) time,” said Henry.

“We can’t do it justice. We have enough on our plate with just chamber business.”

This unexpected move took the Spirit Committee full circle. When established in 2002, the committee was set up as a select committee of council with the mandate to review information and report to the VOP with recommendations. According to insiders, this did not happen. The committee went off on its own and established its own events: Winterfest and A Chance for Kids golf tournament. Frustrations within the committee led to its dissolution at the beginning of last year, when it came under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce.

How the newly reinstated select committee will interact with the Olympic Opportunities Officer remains unclear.

What is clear is that the position will require voter assent. The bylaw request is currently at the office of the Inspector of Municipalities. Pending that office’s approval, the bylaw could be before the public before the end of February. The tax cost of the position, based on tax assessments, is 8¢ per $1,000. For the owner of an average single-family home in the VOP instituting the position would mean an increase of $33.60 per year.

The Olympic Opportunities Officer should be accountable to the newly formed 2010 Economic Development Committee, a nine-member board that will include representation from the SLRD, the VOP and other stakeholders.

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