Thursday, July 01, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lax Kw'alaams residents want answers on Watson Island plans,  the anti HST petition is delivered to Elections BC and Tulani Ackerman is set to start her journey, some of the items of note from Wednesday.

Daily News, front page, headline story
LAX KW'ALAAMS MEMBERS WANT DISCLOSURE ON WATSON DEAL -- More concern over the secretive negotiations to sell the Watson Island site, this time as members of the community from a prospective buyer express their hesitations over the rumoured possible deal.

Lucy Island lighthouse on DFO's surplus list, but most likely to remain in DFO's inventory.

Prince Rupert teacher Tulani Ackerman rolls out on her cross province Steps or Students tour for education on Canada Day.

The Sports section features a look at the Credit Union's Goalgetters soccer camp and a preview of the Kitimat Hill climb.

(Daily News Archives for Wednesday June 30, 2010)

Lax Kw'alaams members want disclosure on Watson deal 
Lucy LIghthouse on the list 
HST a repeat in history
Ready to roll in support of education

The Northern View
Anti-HST petitions reach Elections BC -- Carrying in a box of petitions from the North Coast, Bill Vander Zalm delivered a truck load of protest to Elections BC as opposition groups continued their push to force the provincial government to cancel the implementation of the tax or take the issue to referendum (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Epicurean Fire Update -- The latest developments regarding the Epicurean fire of April (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News 
C.O.P gets underway -- The Citizens on Patrol program is back on the beat as the city of Prince Rupert announces that the program hopeful will assist in reducing the acts of vandalism and other items of public safetty in the city (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Fisherman's Union Rep calls Coho sports fishing unfair -- The seasonal debate over commercial versus sport fishery once again pops up on the waterfront (see article here)

CBC News Northern BC Daybreak North 
Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. 

The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here

Daily News, front page, headline story 
Lax Kw’alaams members want disclosure on Watson deal 
By George T. Baker - 
Staff Writer 
Prince Rupert Daily News
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

 A meeting of goodwill took place on Monday, as representatives of Lax Kw’alaams general membership met with Mayor Jack Mussallem concerning Watson Island.

They wanted to let Mussallem know that they would like to see any proposed deal between the City Council and Lax Kw’alaams band council before a deal is finalized. They do not feel that there has been enough transparency in regard to the potential purchase.

 “There is a general consensus that the community has concerns with regards to the proposed Watson Island deal. They would like to have answers,” said Chris Sankey one of the dozen people who met with the Mayor.

 Sankey said that the group was not looking for Mussallem to provide any answers today about the proposed deal.

 “All we were here for today is to inform Jack [Mussallem] and City Council about our concerns,” said Sankey. 

The meeting today was to counteract reports that the entire band membership had backed a top-secret deal for the land. Those in attendance said it’s the opposite, and that any deal that might be struck between the City and the Tsimshian community needed to be vetted more thoroughly by the public. 

Watson Island, the former Skeena Cellulose pulp mill site that was at one time the city’s biggest employer, has become a deal that cannot finish. City Council had hoped to have the property sold by the end of March, 2010, but a lawsuit submitted by previous mill site owner Sun Wave Forest Products, a subsidiary of the China Paper Group, has slowed down talks.

 The City is still in the courts with SunWave, which has a bearing on negotiations to sell Watson Island, there being two court cases at different times. One of the suits is contesting ownership of the site by the city. Sun Wave believes that the City did not have the right to repossess the property from them for no payment of taxation, and the issues remain a potential barrier to sale until such time as they may be settled.

 Monday’s revelation that the members of Lax Kw’alaams do not fully support a proposed deal between Lax Kw’alaams band council - and their potential investors - and the City could also slow down the sale, though Mussallem said that is not necessarily the case.

 “They want a greater understanding of the deal and I will encourage the Chief Councillor [Gary Reece] to facilitate as quickly as possible an information session with the community at large.”

 Whether or not Prince Rupert ‘at large’ will receive the same opportunity comes down to how soon the deal may happen. Mussallem said that he didn’t want to go public with any potential deal because he wants to provide as much factual information as possible about the sale.

 Given that the litigation remains in front of the city, such a meeting may not happen for a while yet. 

“There are people on all sides of this negotiation that would like more information. When a firm arrangement has been concluded, there will be information coming to the public at large,” Mussallem confirmed.

 Mussallem said that the selling of Watson Island has become more complex then initially envisioned. That doesn’t mean that the city wouldn’t like to offload the site, considering they are covering a monthly bill of $74,000 to $100,000 to maintain the site.

 “I have heard the concerns of the representatives from Lax Kw’alaams. They would like more information with a proposed agreement,” reported Mussallem.

The Mayor said he would be talking to band council soon about the concerns of members living in Port Simpson and Prince Rupert.

 “I have to tell you that this is not a straightforward arrangement in terms of being a sale. It is complicated by the fact that the municipality did seize the property for non-payment of taxes,” explained Mussallem. 

There are also some contamination concerns on the island that the provincial Ministry of Environment would like to see dealt with. A fund of $9 million was originally set up by the provincial government to cover the cost of cleanup on the site and, while part of that money was used, $4.5 million remains for further cleanup. However, that does not necessarily mean that it would be enough to cover the remaining cleanup of the site. That’s what bothers the Lax Kw’alaams membership at large, said Sankey.

Though he was the spokesperson for the meeting, Sankey was clear to say that he was not trying to say he represented all views from the public.

While Sankey reported that the meeting went well and that he felt Mussallem supported their drive to get more information out of the deal, he said those who met with the Mayor today did not want to be stuck in the same position three-to-five years from now.

 “We don’t want to be responsible for a bad deal happening. That is not what we want. We want everyone to benefit from this. There are a lot of people with a vested interest or are seeking a vested interest. It can only mean economic opportunity for everyone.”

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