Whistler 'thankful' for RMI millions 

Oversight committees created to direct monies

click to enlarge The Bare Naked Ladies rock Whistler Olympic Plaza in August 2011 as part of the Festivals, Events and Animation program paid for by RMI funds.
  • The Bare Naked Ladies rock Whistler Olympic Plaza in August 2011 as part of the Festivals, Events and Animation program paid for by RMI funds.

Whistler has quickly become addicted to the millions of dollars it now gets every year in RMI grant money.

"RMI is now the new crack cocaine that's replaced the development cost charges (DCC's)," said local businessman Paul Mathews, after attending this week's municipal budget open house.

It used to be that those DCC's fuelled the coffers at municipal hall through the building boom of the '90s. But when development came to a grinding halt as Whistler reached its growth target, it brought with it a new financial reality at the hall.

After tirelessly lobbying the province for years, Whistler and other resort communities were finally awarded "financial tools" , now in the form of RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) money to be used for tourism-related projects.

Last year Whistler received $7.5 million. This year it is budgeting for $6.5 million.

"Thankfully," Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden told the crowd at the open house. "Or we would be in a much different position that what we're in now."

She was one of the councillors back in the day before RMI and remembers how there were lots of programs that Whistler could only hope for at the time.

She said Whistler is "enormously appreciative" of the funding.

Mathews, however, said there is sometimes a rush to spend the RMI money without enough thought. He points to the half a million dollars used last year for the outdoor ice rink in the village. The province wants to see the money spent on a yearly basis and not carried over in savings.

"It's serious coin," he said. "We've got to be more clever on that stuff."

It pays for things such as the $2.7 million Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) Program, the operation costs of Whistler Olympic Plaza, and the Chamber's Spirit Program, among a host of other things.

New this year, council has created not only a FE&A oversight committee but also a RMI oversight committee. Each will report to the finance and audit committee.

Sue Adams will be the community member-at-large on the FE&A committee which will also include a representative from Tourism Whistler, Councillor Roger McCarthy, CAO Mike Furey, and the general manager of resort experience Jan Jansen.

The municipality is now looking for a member-at-large for the RMI oversight committee. Applicants must submit a resume for this volunteer position by April 4. For more information go to www.whistler.ca

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