Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The City inherits a pulp mill, an arraignment date for an accused murder suspect and an attempt to change the nature of investigating police involved investigations, some of the items of note for Wednesday.

PRINCE RUPERT OWNS A PULP MILL - AT LEAST FOR NOW-- The deadline passes and the City of Prince Rupert takes the keys to the Watson Island gates, gaining custody of most of the buildings and land on the site, but not all. (Daily News Archive Story)

Harbour Theatre prepares for its fall presentation of Habeus Corpus, auditions for the play take place October 1 and 2 at the Tom Rooney Playhouse on Third Avenue West. (Daily News Archive Story )

The arraignment date for Edward Dundas has been set for October 19th after a Monday court appearance via teleconference took place, with Mr. Dundas appearing from Prince George. Dundas is accused of the murder of his father and the attempted murder of his Uncle from an incident in August. (Daily News Archive Story not posted)

The Sports section offers up some helpful NHL hockey pool advice with a look at some of the more prominent would be picks for the 2009-10 NHL season, the paper also has details on the annual Basketball camp set for PRSS over the Thanksgiving Weekend, featuring camps for both Grades 3-7 and 8-12.

CBC Northern BC, Daybreak North
Taking ownership of a mill-- The CBC examines the latest developments from Watson Island, asking questions of Acting Mayor Kathy Bedard as the City takes control of the property. (listen to the report here)

Greening the Economy-- The prospect of a potash terminal for the North Coast is the subject of an interview with Canpotex representative Jon Somers (listen to the report here)

Police Investigating Police-- With another high profile police involved shooting taking place over the weekend near New Hazelton, NDP MP Nathan Cullen provides some background on the NDP's plan to table legislation to change the current system of police investigating police (listen to the report here)

Daily News Front page, headline story
Prince Rupert owns a pulp mill - at least for now
By George T. Baker

The Prince Rupert Daily News
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The City of Prince Rupert is now the owner of the Watson Island Pulp Mill.

As acting Mayor Kathy Bedard and city chief financial officer Dan Rodin waited patiently for the clock to strike 4:30 p.m., they would not make any official comment about the pulp mill and who might own it.

"Given the history of this, we weren't prepared to comment one way or the other until 4:30 p.m." said Bedard.

However, it seemed unlikely that at the last hour Sun Wave Forest Products BC, a subsidiary of the China Pulp and Paper Group, would come running in with a cheque for $6.5 million to save its property from reverting back to the city.

"We have not received anything from SunWave and we have had no communication with SunWave in a while," said Bedard once the clock struck the magical minute.

Although more than one potential buyer is showing some interest in the property, one of which is Lax Kw'alaams, no agreements had been signed by the tax deadline.

However, while the city now takes control of the major piece of property on Watson Island it does not mean that SunWave is done with Prince Rupert or Watson Island.

The shadowy company still owns property, which Bedard said could be the pulp mill's landing dock area. "We have staff working on that right now," said Bedard.

According to an outside source, the Watson Island property falls under several deeds. And although the land on which the mill sits is now in the hands of the city, another part, namely the right of way for the extensive waterline, still belongs to Sun Wave. This portion consists of over a hundred lot numbers and extends over approximately 3,000 acres along the line.

The change in deed does bring to end one of the most disappointing chapters in the history of the mill that once employed hundreds of locals.

Skeena Cellulose was once 68 per cent owned by the province and 32 per cent owned by the Toronto Dominion Bank. It was then Dan Veniez and his NWBC Timber and Pulp company that attempted - though unsuccessfully - to make a go of it in 2001.

The pulp mill fell into receivership and was then purchased by Sun Wave Forest Products with a major tax concession by both the City of Prince Rupert and the District of Port Edward.

In June 2005, the company made a $1.8 million offer for the Watson site plus a $1.5 million offer for Skeena's Carnaby Mill in Hazelton. The city supported the offer, however, the court-appointed receiver said it was significantly lower than the $6 million market value of the Watson site alone.

In July of that year, the B.C. Supreme Court approved the purchase of the two sites for $3.3 million. The China Paper Group then went to the Chinese Government for approval of funds for the deal with a deadline of August 11, 2005.

The city agreed to give SunWave a five year tax concession with the understanding that the company would be engaged in activities that would provide local employment opportunites by 2007.

But with all that promise, nothing seemed to come through and no employment activity began.

When no activity appeared to be forthcoming, city council cancelled Sun Wave's free ride and the city put the property up for tax sale in September 2008. This gave Sun Wave one year to produce the With no buyers, "The ultimate would be to have someone operating the pulp mill, but the city gave up on that some time ago," acknowledged Bedard.

"But for the first time in 13 years we are in charge of our own destiny."

A press released issued last night by the city declared that the city expects that "the outstanding property tax revenues, as well as other revenue, will be received." But no indication is made as to how this will come about.

When asked if the public would be approached for contributing ideas, Bedard replied that with Mayor Mussallem and some council members currently engaged in the UBCM in Vancouver, she felt that no decisions could be made concerning the City's next move until their return, when all could sit down together and discuss options further.

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