Once again the manager of the MK Bay Marina at Kitamaat Village has become the center of acrimony. Richard Smeal is employed by the Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) to manage the marina facilities on their behalf. For years boat owners have been complaining about Smeal’s arrogant and abusive behaviour. Claims of him; watching boats sink without taking action, refusing fuel sales and driving away customers he develops personality conflicts with are just the tip of the iceberg. Smeal is now taking his personal vendettas against others to new heights. His latest actions are threatening the last remaining logging jobs in the Northwest.
James Archibald appeared at the District of Kitimats regular Council meeting last night and laid out a scenario for the Councillors which should have everyone stand up and take notice. Archibald owns and operates Snow Valley Marine Services, which runs three tugs in Kitimat and Douglas Channel. This tug service is essential to many businesses, not just the remnants of the logging industry. Fisherman, First Nations enterprises and more depend on the two barges and the associated services. By Archibald’s own estimate his business leaves 2.6 million dollars worth of service income in the region. His fuel bill alone is $600,000 per year. His tugs haul all the logs for All West Trading and Smeal’s actions are threatening this company and all the associated jobs. Smeal refuses Archibald access to the MK Bay Marina.
Smeal has been involved in various legal actions by marina users in the past. We have reported on this and the amazing mis-management of the publically owned facility in the past. Read our story on a delegation of boat owners attending an RDKS Board meeting to complain on April 26 of this year HERE
With the closure of Moon Bay Marina on the other side of the Harbour, near Rio Tinto Alcan, MK Bay Marina becomes the only facility available for decent moorage. Others who have been denied access have taken moorage a short distance north of Kitamaat Village but this marina is only accessible to larger vessels 5 days a month, during high water. This is not an option for Archibald.
After making inquires of various City Councillors, RDKS Directors, the Mayor of Kitimat and the Staff of the RDKS he was told each time Smeal would accommodate him. After every attempt Smeal refused, even though, Archibald claims, each elected person reported to him Smeal stated there would be no problem. Finally Archibald contacted a lawyer himself. He found two boats that had moorage contracts at the marina and with advice from his lawyer he bought them, $100,000 worth of boats just to get space to tie up. He moved one boat out and tied his up in the space available. Not good enough for Smeal, Archibald told the Kitimat council, Smeal untied his boat and moved it off the marina property.
On a visit to the marina during a previous dispute with a Charter Vessel operator, Richard Smeal was brash and arrogant refusing to make any comments on his actions stating “There is no story here.” In the two years since this visit it appears the stories about Smeals inability to manage his personality with others and to manage the Marina at the same time is one deeply involved story.
The RDKS is the ultimate authority of the MK Bay Marina. They are essentially the owners and operate the marina on the public’s behalf. Bob Marcellin, the top Administrative official with the RDKS has appeared at various user group and board meetings and has heard the complaints. When we asked him about the situation after the complaints were taken to the board in April, he shrugged his shoulders and stated there were various strong personalities involved; not indicating any action would be taken.
Archibald described how many employment activities are related to each other and how his tug and barge service is an integral part of many. The Charter operators also assist in employing many others. How the RDKS has allowed this one individual, Richard Smeal, to maintain his position, essentially a public servant himself, while alienating so many private and commercial operators is a perplexing affair. It may be that the RDKS is a committee of committees that hasn’t the ability to bare their teeth to sanction, discipline or fire an employee. The complaints seem to come and go and the manager stays. The worry is that due to the inaction of the RDKS to step in and resolve the long standing disputes, the entire region may suffer another significant loss of jobs and revenue.