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RCMP costs to increase

Changes in census could lead to a $685,000 increase for RCMP services

The District of Squamish could be paying an extra $685,000 by April if the provincial government moves forward with census policy changes.

Currently the district pays 70 per cent of the $2.7 million RCMP costs with 30 per cent borne by the province. Municipalities with a population of over 15,000 are asked to pay 90 per cent of RCMP costs. In the last census count, Squamish had 14,949 residents, only 51 short of the higher threshold.

In September 2008, a letter sent to the District of Squamish from the Ministry of Public Safety, advised that a undercount will be included in the population estimate. Results of the revised census have yet to be released but if Squamish exceeds 15,000 it will be responsible for 90 per cent of RCMP costs.

"This is a very serious issue because we are looking at a significant amount of money," Gardner said. "This agreement is embedded in the contract and I have a little trouble with the re-evaluation."

Council received a report on the matter for information and with an eye toward the 2009 budgeting process.

RGS discussion set

The District of Squamish is the only one of 11 municipalities yet to embrace the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) and as a result, the Ministry of Community Services has called all parties to the discussion table.

All council members are invited to attend a meeting with the Ministry of Community services to discuss outstanding issues with the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) RGS. The meeting, which is to be facilitated by ministry staff, will be an opportunity to discuss objections, clarify provisions and determine if there is way to move forward.

"We have to respond and make recommendations to the minister about our position," said Mayor Greg Gardner. "I can assure you that we will tread lightly."

Started in 2004, the RGS document was meant to establish where growth should occur throughout the entire corridor. Among the many concerns, Coun. Corinne Lonsdale said under the current RGS formula, changes can only be made through SLRD bylaws, giving municipalities less control.

"I am concerned about giving up our autonomy without an amendment process in place. This was meant to be a 10 page document but Whistler hijacked the process and turned it into something all together different," Lonsdale said.

Council members also agreed that Squamish should not move the RGS document forward until Squamish finishes a new version of the Official Community Plan.

Grant requests hit before budget

Council got a little uncomfortable with requests for various grants before the 2009 budgeting process has even begun.

The District of Squamish was given council approval to apply for a matching $238,000 grant under the BC Cycling Infrastructure Program. If approved for the grant, the district must commit to spending the same amount.

"I will be supporting this grant application but I don't like the timing or the process for embarking on these sorts of things. We still have to go through a proper budget process," said Coun. Paul Lalli.

The money spent would cover the costs to build bicycle lanes between Valleycliffe and Brackendale. The BC Cycling Infrastructure Partnership Program encourages transportation to reduce the number of trips made by motor vehicles. The bike lanes suit the grant program and provide students a safe route to school.

"Although the timing is tough, I am very excited to move this forward because I don't want to tell kids they don't deserve a safe way to get to school," said Coun. Bryan Raiser.

The current route links eight of nine Squamish schools and the bike lane would make it much safer for cyclists.

Council also approved a grant application to apply for a $375,000 grant for the development of a new community pavilion. The total cost of the pavilion would be $500,000 for creation of the O'siem Community Pavilion, leaving the district with a $125,000 bill.

"Our council has been attempting to negotiate as many legacies as possible and it was suggested we apply for a grant for a replacement pavilion type structure that is meant to evoke the style of a Coast Salish log house."

Grant process questioned

Council received the 2008 Community Enhancement Grants in Aid report and made a commitment to rework the grant in aid process at a future Committee of the Whole meeting.

Simply put, the Grant Program was established to provide funding to non-profit organizations, societies or other community organizations based within the municipality that are considered by council to be contributing to the general interest of the community.

In 2008, $177,252 was given out in grants to groups such as the Squamish Town Centre association, Squamish Food Bank and Howe Sound Secondary to name a few.

"We have already had a lot of requests coming in for 2009 and I believe we still have groups applying. We really need to start dealing with this as a whole," Lalli said.

Council also discussed the idea of similar community groups such as the outdoor sports organizations moving requests forward at the same time. More discussion is expected a future meeting.

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