By Steve Hubrecht

Radium councillors voiced their support to efforts by Tourism Radium to deal directly with the provincial government on matters relating to the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) program, and to increase the tax, and heard how the Radium library has weathered the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, during the latest Radium council meeting.

At the Wednesday, Sept. 8 meeting, Tourism Radium executive director Jessica Fairhart outlined to council that in many communities in the Kootenays, the local chamber of commerce or tourism marketing organization (Tourism Radium is run by the Radium Chamber of Commerce) receives MRDT funding directly from the province. In Radium it goes to the village office, and thence on to Tourism Radium. Fairhart noted it would be more streamlined and efficient for the funding to come directly to Tourism Radium. “It’s a pretty common arrangement,” she said. 

The MRDT program, which began more than three decades ago, provides funding to local tourism marketing efforts through an up-to-three per cent tax levied on sales of short term accommodations.

“Tourism Radium really is the driver of this program…we (the village office) are just a go-between flow-through for it,” added Radium chief financial officer Karen Sharp.

Fairhart also expressed a desire to— pending discussions with Radium accommodators — increase the Radium MRDT from two per cent to three per cent, pointing out that a three per cent MRDT is already in place in Cranbrook, Golden and Revelstoke.

“It’s significant in terms of what can be done with the extra funding,” she explains.

Radium council supported Fairhart on both counts, with mayor Clara Reinhardt saying “they seem reasonable things to do.”

Council members next heard an annual report presentation from Radium Library director Jacqueline Kozak and library board chair Sandy Easton. The pair explained that 2020 was a challenging year for the Radium Library, owing to the pandemic, as it was for libraries all across B.C. 

Prior to the pandemic hitting the Columbia Valley in March 2020, circulation figures and in-person visit numbers at the Radium Library were up notably in January and February 2020, said Kozak. The library pivoted during the first wave and, once it re-opened in July 2020, was able to offer Grab-and-Go summer reading services that proved quite popular with not only Radium residents but also those living in Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area G, RDEK Area F and Invermere.

“There was a lull in new membership during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, but since this summer (2021) new membership has been very steady,” says Kozak.