Approval for a free, daily winter shuttle service from downtown Rossland to Red Mountain Resort was begrudgingly given the nod for one year’s worth of funding by city council.
In their regular meeting Monday night, council voted unanimously to give Tourism Rossland $24,000 of Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding for one year, but not before dividing and defeating the original request for two years.
Questions of the offer for a free service, as well as making it continuous throughout the day and into the evening, were raised in the debate on the original, two-year motion.
There were plenty of bugs that had to be worked out on scheduling, said councilor Kathy Wallace, and they needed to be done before approving longer term funding.
She opposed the continuous service operation and favoured fewer, more strategic, operation to run the service efficiently.
“I don’t think it is really fulfilling a need that people who want a bus are looking for,” she said. “So, to commit to this and run it for a year and see what it looks like? That I can commit to. To commit for two years? You won’t get my vote.”
The comment and the discussion on charging for the service—already supported whole heartedly and financially by the business community—infuriated councilor Jill Spearn.
“There will be times when the shuttle won’t be as full as we would like it to be,” she said.
She implored the rest of council to consider two years to give the service ample time to assemble data on usage.
“Frankly, we can’t miss the bus on this opportunity,” she said.
Council only partially caught the bus by approving one year. However, the money now creates internal daytime shuttle bus service from downtown Rossland to Red Mountain for the winter of 2013/14.
Subject to the confirmation that Rossland has become a two per cent community—meaning more approved accommodation rooms and greater provincial funding—council would approve the expenditure in principle of $42,000 per year on the internal day and, subsequently, evening time shuttle bus.
Earlier in the meeting, executive director of Tourism Rossland (TR), Deanne Steven, stood before council and again iterated the importance of the city approving a move to establish a local, free ski shuttle bus to Red Mountain Resort for the winter, but also for two years.
The approval would cost the municipality nothing, said Steven, since it was not Rossland taxpayer money, but dollars from the province.
The shuttle has also been repeatedly voiced as the number one priority by Rossland businesses, she added. During the public section at the start of the meeting, several business representatives stepped forward to express their support.
Steven noted the Prestige Hotel had sold its first ever allotment of ski group rooms—contingent on a free shuttle service—and Red Mountain itself was 65 per cent further ahead in bookings than this time last year, on the promise of a free shuttle to the expanded ski hill.
Approval on an amendment to the RMI's Resort Development Strategy (RDS) must be granted by the city, and subsequently the province, in order to release money to Tourism Rossland for an internal shuttle system from Rossland to Red Mountain.
The city needs over 450 rooms as approved accommodation by Destination B.C. to give it a two per cent share of the funding from the province, up from one per cent.
The extra money, around $42,000, would help fund the $78,000 service, said Steven.