Monday, October 19, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Monday, October 19, 2009

Holding out for the bottom line at Watson Island, resuscitating the First Aid program in the city and the School District covers off the cost of sports programs for 2009-10, some of the items of the day for the Monday news cycle.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
MAYOR SAYS WATSON WON'T GO CHEAP-- Somewhere around 13 to 15 million dollars will buy someone a slightly used, quickly aging pulp mill site and apparently the City of Prince Rupert is willing to be patient until they get their price, refusing to feel pressured in the need to make a sale.

Mayor Jack Mussallem provided some of the details on the prospectus of the mill site to the Daily News for their Monday edition, offering up the theory that the city would like to get back all possible money that the city is owed from past tax paydays that didn't quite work out as planned.

Those missed tax payments required the City to slash budgets over the years and secure a loan for 9 million dollars, which is serviced each year, adding to the ongoing cost of the saga of Watson Island.

Not outlined in the article is how long the City is willing to pay the ongoing maintenance fees of around 100,000 dollars a month, nor how much of the mill site and what segments of it is still owned by the previous owners Sun Wave and how that situation may impact on any potential sale.

So far the only confirmed interest in the site has come from the Lax Kw'alaams band council who have gone public with their tire kicking intentions, though one wonders if they will be willing to contribute to the top end of the selling price, or if negotiations may bring down that firm price which has been described as one that offers no deals, nor breaks on the offer of sale. (Daily News Archive Article )

The St. John's Ambulance is seeking to re-establish its presence in the city, after the organization went dormant in Prince Rupert over the last few years. To that end and to get the ball rolling, two members of the organization addressed City council to outline their plans and seek council's support in reviving the program in the city (Daily News Archive Article )

School District 52 voted to make up the funding shortfalls for local school sports clubs this year, a move that will provide for the 2009-10 school year but left many trustees worried that the Province may now use that as confirmation that the costs of school sports should be shouldered by local communities and not on a provincial basis as in the past.

It was that concern that left Trustee Chair Tina Last with no option but to vote against the motion, afraid of sending that wrong message, but in the end her vote was outnumbered 6 to 1, with the remaining trustees voting to fill in the funding numbers, but expressing their own concerns over the provincial governments moves of late, urging the provincial government to reinstate the funding programs for 2010-11 (Daily News Archive Article )

A call for a public and open discussion on alcohol and substance abuse in First Nations communities has been issued by Dr Evan Adams, the Aboriginal health physician advisor from the office of the Provincial Health officer. His quest could prove controversial once again, as past expressions of concern have met with some hesitation from First Nations leaders, worried that stereotyping could impede on the process (Daily News Archive Article)

CFTK TV 7 News
New ICBC Winter Driving Campaign--Cooler weather means that its time to start thinking about winter driving conditions and the required steps needed for safe travel in a Northwestern BC winter (see article here)

Daily News, Front page, headline story
Mayor says Watson won't go cheap
By George T. Baker
The Prince Rupert Daily News
Monday, October 19, 2009

Anyone who wants the Watson Island Pulp Mill property can expect to pay a steep price for it.

And the city will not place any kind of restrictions or conditions on potential purchasers as it relates to employment guarantees.

According to Mayor Jack Mussallem, the property will be up for sale this week and the asking price will be anywhere between $13 and $15 million.

"We have information as to the value of Watson Island as opposed to the individual pieces of equipment and the city is going to offer Watson Island in total for sale," said Mussallem.
That means that there will be no parceling off of the equipment or any other capital on the property that a purchaser may be interested in.

The Mayor said the City is not interested in selling pieces off in any way. Lax Kw'alaams band council has already expressed interest in Watson Island, but no other interest has been made public.

"On an informal basis, we have enquiries every day. Whether some of those interests partner to make the purchase a reality, we don't know, but we do have both national and international [interest]," reported Mussallem.

City council doesn't want the city to own the property any longer than need be. But the City won't be pressured into selling the property.

"We would like to sell the property and get back all possible money that the city is owed," said

Prince Rupert was owed $8.1 million in taxes. That includes such things as the hospital tax, the regional district tax, the municipal tax and the School District.

On top of that, the city also was out $13 million the first time the property was not put up for tax sale. The city had to do a variety of cost-cutting measures by slashing services to get the city budget deficit down to $9 million.

The city then had to secure a loan for that $9 million - which the city has to service each year - and Mussallem posted the increases in property tax, too.

While city council would prefer to see employees out on Watson Island as a result of the sale, Mussallem said this is not the priority in the sale.

"It is critical that infrastructure is maintained. The property is being listed for sale and there will be no deals and no breaks offered on the sale," expressed Mussallem.

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