RMI grant funds big projects 

Visitor hub will be paid for through provincial money

Day lot parking upgrades, the Rainbow Theatre renovation and Whistler Olympic Plaza are just three projects to be paid for through the 2011 Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding.

RMI funds are given to B.C. resort municipalities by the province to fund projects specific to generating tourism and cannot be used for normal municipal operations. A complete list of all capital projects must be submitted to the province every year for approval before the funds are given out.

"The funding is awarded annually at discretion of the province, and while we don't have an indication of the level of funding beyond the current year, we anticipate the funding to be $1 million less in 2012 (i.e. $6.5 million)," wrote Diana Mulvey, communications officer for the RMOW, in an email to Pique .

This year the RMOW will receive $7.5 million from the province through the RMI funds, $1 million more than expected. $720,000 of this million will go toward the upgrades of day lots 4 and 5 while the remaining $280,000 will be saved for the 2012 budget year. The extra money is being saved to help support a massive project the municipality will undertake in 2012 -the brand new visitor amenity hub.

The proposed $7.2 million amenity hub will be paid for completely by RMI funds over the next four years, with $200,000 earmarked for 2011 for a preliminary feasibility study and background business plan, which Jan Jansen, general manger of resort experience for the RMOW, said is already underway.

"It's really getting the partners together, engaging a consultant and working through it, understanding what the model could look like," Jansen said. "It's essentially understanding the numbers that come with it and if it flies financially. If it doesn't fly financially there's no project."

If it moves forward, the hub will streamline all visitors to one central location as a pick-up and drop-off point for shuttles and other bus services. Details have yet to be finalized but plans for the facility may also include car rental services, hotel check-in and checkout terminals, information services and storage areas. The remaining $7 million will be spread out over the following three years - $1 million in 2012, $3.5 million in 2013 and $2.5 million in 2014 - under the assumption that the RMOW will receive the usual $6.5 million from the province.

The RMI was at one time the Resort Municipality Transfer Tax (RMTT) and was generated from the four per cent taken from the PST on hotel rooms then given back to resort municipalities for funding tourism-related projects. Once HST was introduced, the system had to be re-jigged and is now a government grant. With the RMTT, the amount of funds varied depending on how well the municipality's hotels were doing. Now, the government announces yearly what the amount will be and the RMOW's budgeting department forecasts that number to be $6.5 million, although they received an extra $1 million this year.

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