Not wanting to ‘miss the bus’, council agrees to fund free winter shuttle

Arlen MacLaine
By Arlen MacLaine
September 12th, 2013

A proposal from Tourism Rossland that would see a portion Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding go toward supporting a free winter shuttle from Rossland to Red Mountain Resort was picked over with a fine toothed comb and voted on by City Council on Monday.  The council chamber was filled with local business owners and others who had a stake in the decision.  

The proposal asked for a two year commitment of funding.  In the end, after some rigorous debate which saw some councillors butt heads, council voted to allocate the RMI funds for one year.

Tourism Rossland’s Deanne Steven started off the discussion, saying, “This shuttle bus is the single biggest economic development initiative that we could take on at this point, and it will have a direct and immediate effect on all local businesses.  Every local business I’ve gone to has been in total support of this.”  She added, “We’ve partnered with all the different stakeholders here in town, Red Mountain Academy, Canadian Ski Quest, Red Resort, and over 20 other businesses who are committed to contributing to the shuttle bus.”

The shuttle would operate for 114 days during the winter season in a continuous loop but on a set schedule from 7:30 – 10:00.  It would be free to ride, as the costs would be picked up by local businesses.

It should be noted that this funding is not coming from Rossland taxpayer dollars.  The RMI grant is a flow-through grant from the provincial government that Tourism Rossland applied for, and it is received and administered by the city.

One of the major sticking points of the proposal was the lack of cost.

“I don’t understand why the shuttle has to be free,” said Councillor Kathy Wallace. “To me, I don’t think any of the tourists coming here would bat an eye at having to pay a toonie to hop on a bus.  It gives the service some revenue, other than from the businesses in the community, which get hit pretty hard.”

Councillor Carey Fisher brought up another side of the argument.  “There is also an economic impact from the ‘ski bums’, who travel here to ski,” he said.  “They rent a place in town, they shop at Ferraro’s and, they spend money in the local establishments.  A free shuttle has the potential to attract people.  These people add to the fabric of town, they always have.  A lot of us are here because we were ski bums.”

“The two dollar charge is ridiculous,” said Councillor Jill Spearn.  “This is a huge Tourism Rossland initiative. Let’s roll with it for a year. The businesses in this community, who have filled this chamber more than once, are in full support of it.  There is a huge expansion going on at Red Mountain, and I don’t want to ‘miss the bus’ with this opportunity.”

Councillor Jody Blomme discussed the opportunity costs of allocating the RMI funds to this project.  “The argument can be made that, if this is such a huge valuable thing to businesses in Rossland and they’re willing to put for the percentage they are, then why not the rest of it, and why not use this for something that wouldn’t have another way of being paid for, but would also have value,” she said.  “I’m not saying that I don’t support this shuttle, but there are still a lot of unknowns and opportunity costs that we do have to explore and analyze.”  Based on those reasons, Blomme didn’t feel comfortable committing to two years.

When it came time to vote, Fisher had to excuse himself due to a conflict of interest.  Councillor Kathy Moore was absent.  The motion to allocate the RMI funding for the shuttle for two years was defeated, with Mayor Greg Granstrom and Blomme and Wallace in opposition.  Afterwards, Blomme brought forth a second motion, to support the allocation of RMI funding for the shuttle for one year, which was unanimously supported.

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