Sunday, December 27, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Thursday, December 24, 2009

As we ease our way back into the blogging routine, a bit of catch up from the final hours of Christmas Eve.

More details on the Lax Kw'alaams bid for Watson Island, relocating the Lax Kw'alaams ferry dock and some further information on the death of Lt. Andrew Nuttall a former Prince Rupert resident who was killed in action in Afghanistan last week. Some of the items of note for the Christmas Eve news cycle.

The Daily News reviewed May in it's look back features for 2009 in the Wednesday edition.

Daily News, front page, headline story
LAX KW'ALAAMS CONFIRMS THEY ARE ONE OF SIX BIDDERS FOR WATSON -- The Daily catches up to the Northern View's Wednesday morning review of the bid by Lax Kw'alaams to seek out ownership of the Watson Island site, a joint offer with the North American Charter of Shipping and Trade Inc., to provide for a "comprehensive and diversified development team for the project", should they be successful in their quest.

The Daily also provided some background on the plans for Watson Island that the would be partners of Lax Kw'alaams, North American Charter Indian Shipping and Trade Inc. have suggested for development. Among them, better use of the Watson Island waste water facilities perhaps for municipal use, a logistics centre for port related development, as a departure point for local forestry interests both on the North Coast and on Haida Gwaii and even the potential of developing fish farms on the site.

Broadwater Industries will provide for the bulk of the work on the Lax Kw'alaams ferry dock relocation project, which will see a new dock constructed on the east side of Prince Rupert. The new location at Seal Cove will provide for a permanent home for the fifteen vehicle ferry which transports passengers, supplies and product to and from Lax Kw'alaams on a regular schedule.

The Sports section featured a review of 2009's local sports highlights.

(Archive for Daily News Articles for December 24, 2009)

The Northern View
No new items were posted on the Northern View website for December 24.

CFTK TV 7 News
Prince Rupert Man the Latest Canadian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan -- TV 7 posts a Canadian Press item outlining some of the latest details on the death of Lieutenant Andrew Nuttall, he was killed in action in Afghanistan last week.

CBC News Northern British Columbia, Daybreak North
Daybreak is on Christmas break, a notice on their website advises that no new items are to be posted to their Daybreak site until January 4, 2010

Daily News, front page, headline story
Lax Kw'alaams confirms they are one of six bidders for Watson
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, December 24, 2009

With six bids on the offer, the Prince Rupert’s top decision makers feel like they will be able to sell the Watson Island property from a position of strength.

That could mean a valuable injection of cash for City Hall at a time when they are certainly in need of the green stuff. But it also has pushed at least one bidder to make their intentions for the site publicly known.

Lax Kw’alaams band council say they will be ready to make the down payment as soon as the city focuses on the bid it likes best.

Chief Councillor Gary Reece confirmed with the Daily News that his band council is one of the six bidders for the property with a private partner helping to fund the purchase should Prince Rupert choose them.

“We haven’t had any conversations with the City yet, because most of the [band] councillors are on holidays, but we will look to be having that talk early next month,” said Reece.

The Lax Kw’alaams Band announced this week that they have submitted a joint bid to purchase Watson Island, the former site of Skeena Cellulose, from the City of Prince Rupert. Though they don’t want the announcement to make the bid seem like a fait accompli, they do want locals and the province to understand that they are serious about the economic investment.

Lax Kw’alaams have partnered with North American Indian Charter of Shipping and Trade, Inc. to bring forward what they call a comprehensive and diversified development plan for the property.

If successful, Lax Kw’alaams will be the majority partner with NAICST in charge of securing funding for site development.

Wayne Drury, CEO for the Lax Kw’alaams Band’s business arm and Michael Holloran, Senior Associate, Engineering and Project Development for the North American Indian Charter of Shipping and Trade, will be responsible for leading the development team for the project if they win the bid on the property.

Holloran is also CEO for Intelligent Living Corp. a Vancouver firm that specializes in developing ‘green’ homes in British Columbia.

Whatever actually ends up developing in Prince Rupert, potential investors are getting to know that it isn’t just about buying a property. It’s investing into a community.

When Wilfred Vacheresse got on that long bus ride from the Prince Rupert airport to the Highliner hotel, he certainly did not know exactly what he was getting into.

On the Farwest bus service, the president of North American Indian Charter of Shipping and Trade, Inc. began discussing the Watson Island property site and its potential with his partners in a typical business like conversation.

But as locals know, no conversations are truly private on a Prince Rupert bus ride from the airport.

“We were simply talking about the site we were about to visit and of course in our exchange it became quite obvious that we were talking about the Watson Island site. Folks on the bus that were obviously from the community immediately began chiming in with their views of the situation. And so for us it become very apparent that this site is really an emotional touchstone for the whole community,” commented Vacheresse.

He explained that his company was approached seven months ago by former Chief Councillor John Helin wondering if they would be interested in investing in their bid. Upon inspection, NAICST liked most of what was planned and signed on.

But that emotional realization shouldn’t fool Rupertites, said Vacheresse. This is still a business deal.

“It only means that we wish to conduct ourselves, if we are successful, in a manner that is appropriate for the objectives of the community.”

The City has placed an asking price of $13 million on the property and Mayor Jack Mussallem has said that the proposals still need to be ‘fleshed out’.

However, the Mayor said he expects the property could be sold within the first quarter of 2010.
“That is my hope,” said Musallem.

Mussallem could not say whether that deadline was realistic because it might affect the bidders in the process.

“I can’t predict how the offers would go. I can’t predict the answer from the other parties that are involved to provide specific information with respect to timelines. It is hard to say. I am hopeful, but I can’t say.”

Mussallem has recently listed a variety of businesses that could be engaged in at Watson Island including the manufacturing of wood, wood fired co-generation, and the shipping of break bulk and other cargos off the dock. Whether that is an indication of those who are interested is not clear at this point.

Mussallem refuted the notion that there would be any concern about the adjacent property still owned by Sun Wave Forest Products. He said because the property was surrounded by the major Watson Island property and bidders have not made much mention about any problems associated with that property.

If the city wants to sell by March, Lax Kw’alaams believe they won’t have much trouble paying at the deadline.

Reece did not divulge what price he was looking to bid at, but said the potential investment is being talked about in Port Simpson.

“Oh I think so. We are trying to creating a lot of business and employment opportunities for the whole region on the North Coast. We have been looking at that for some time now and I think we are serious with what we are trying to do.”

Reece said he hasn’t heard about who the band council’s competition is, which he said slightly concerned him because it was like shooting in the dark.

“I haven’t heard. All I have heard is that there are six bids in total and I don’t know who they are,” said Reece. “It kind of concerns us because I have no idea who would have their bids in there. We have been trying to find out, but we haven’t been too successful.”

Neither has Vacheresse. But he says that’s pretty much business as usual.

“We’ll just be sitting on our hands and waiting for the city to make their decision.”

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