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REPORTING · 14th July 2010
Walter McFarlane

At Kitimat City Council on July 5th, Councillor Randy Halyk’s Motion to upgrade the sound system of Tamitik was shot down without a seconder. On July 6th, the community of Kitimat came out for a Community Meeting at Riverlodge. It was open mike time and the point made by Halyk was about to be driven home by problems with the Riverlodge sound system.

The first problem is: one of the microphones did not work. When they brought in a second one, it did not work either.

this problem was compounded by the use of a conference call where answers from people in other parts of BC did not come through the sound system clearly and the answers had to be echoed by panellists.

One person at the back of the room comented on how people at the back could not hear the speakers clearly and several left during this part of the presenation.

Peter King was first in line. He wanted to know how people who could not afford $25,000 participate and about the July 15th Deadline. Mary Murphy said she had come up with the $25,000 amount. She said there were people who worked at Eurocan who did not receive a lot of money when the plant closed.

As for the July 15th date, the union was reminded by West Frasier: It had been 7 months. West Frasier would not extend the deadline forever but they were willing to keep the deadline open if they could find an investor.

Bill Volrath wanted to know what the overall value of Euorcan. Murphy stated they could not discuss the numbers but Poyry has gone through the mill and assured them the assets they need are still in place. Volrath also wanted to know what supported viability if West Frasier stated the mill is not viable.

Murphy was enthusiastic about the study but referred the question to the phone. At this point, another problem with the sound system became obvious as the room was blasted with feedback.

It was explained both at this point and later in the meeting the Sack Craft was one of Eurocan’s secondary products but of a grade which was in high demand. They were still receiving orders for it while the mill was being shut down. There were two other mills which made the same grade of sack craft paper. The linerboard machine used more power and equipment then anything else on the line.

Angus McLeod shouted his question over the feedback at the Panel because the microphone was not working. He wanted to know how much was needed to make the mill viable. Murphy said they were still talking over the figures with West Frasier. Murphy estimated 20-40 million dollars, the phone panel was reluctant to provide an estimate.

The next woman wanted to know what kind of money was expected to show seriousness that night and if a payroll deduction plan from other businesses had been considered for people who wish to contribute. Councillor Randy Halyk suggested anywhere between $2,000 and $25,000. He also said the Payroll deduction idea was a good idea.

He said 10 cents would not show commitment nor would $1000. $10,000 was closer. He suggested $25,000 would be good but not everyone could afford it. They were setting up a trust account with envision. Murphy stated the mill would be cash positive and the Harmac model had a worker buy in at $25,000 although they had payment programs. She stated they could not buy a mill if everyone puts $1,000 in.

“This is an investment in your life, and investment in your community and an investment for the Northwest. We are going to have a sustainable, stable forest industry here,” said Murphy.

Halyk said if the community could raise $10,000, it would show the government what the mill means to Kitimat. Councillor Bob Corless, who was one of 6 City Council Members Present (Councillor Mario Feldhoff being away), suggested the tax holiday motion which had been tabled at previous nights Council meeting. He joked about this being away of getting back at West Frasier as they did not like to pay their taxes.

The next question revolved around how many workers and where the workers would come from. The number of workers was suggested to be 225 with opportunity to further investment. Murphy stated they have emails from people who want to come back and they could hire retirees to come back and train the younger generation.

Gerd Gottschling wanted to thank people for coming out. He was concerned about where the government was in all of this. The council was behind the buy out but the government has committed $40,000. He wanted Minister Pat Bell to deal with this issue.

“I think that since he is not here shows me there are more important things for the government then our community which is really hurting,” said Gottschling. The response was the Premier and the Forest Minister were approached but they could not be their because of a Caucus meeting. They were able to send Barry Dobbin. MLA Robin Austin was also in the audience.

Gottschling wanted to know how much the Provincial Government would commit to this endeavour. Dobbin answered the government was interested in seeing forestry in the Northwest.

The next speaker was Paul Chhina whose question was drowned out by feedback. He moved to a different microphone and asked about investing. Murphy stated they would have a meeting the next day to discuss how much investment. She added there were now homes in Kitimat going right up for sale.

Their was a question about paying through RRSPs. The final questioner stated Kitimat pays 13% of the provincial tax and there were no representatives in the government showing concern for the community. He wanted to know if there was a way to invest which was income tax deductible. The answer was there were two was of doing this, one way allows employees to earn a tax credit.

Murphy and Halyk concluded the evening. Halyk acknowledged Councillor Richard McLaren, Council’s other representative. Halyk thanked the dedicated people and thanked Murphy who has worked the hardest. He said the bottom line was buying the mill and it making it go forward.

Murphy thanked the District of Kitimat. She asked Mayor Joanne Monaghan to say a few words. Monaghan stated: “I am very enthused and very pleased with what the group has been doing and I would just like to thank very much, those that are here and those who are not here because you have no idea of the time they have put in. It seemed that every couple of days they were in that room in the district offices and they’d be there for hours and they’re working for you, they’re working for the community and their trying to get something happening and I just want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart, you are all just really wonderful, trying for our community, working for our community. Thank you.”

Murphy concluded the evening reminding people if they did nothing, no one was going to do it for them. She said she has spent time in Terrace talking about the sawmill.