Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mayor hints at progress on Watson Island issue

With the one year anniversary on the horizon of the City of Prince Rupert having been handed back the keys  to the  Watson Island site, Mayor Jack Mussallem has been making the media rounds to suggest that some kind of progress may finally be at hand.

The City of Prince Rupert took possession of the mill on September 29, after previous owner Sun Wave failed to make the required tax payments on the land, effectively returning the mill site to the city and along with it a monthly bill of maintenance costs on the site.

Since then, both Sun Wave and the City have ended up in the courts offering differing views of interpretation on what Sun Wave may or may not still be entitled to on the mill site, a process that has made for much work for lawyers and little information for the residents of the city.

Tuesday however, saw a bit of a flurry of information as the Mayor gave an interview to CFTK's Sahar Nassimdoost outlining some of his thoughts on the issue and suggesting that an announcement could be near that could see some diversification on the site and jobs for the city. (see video report here)

That news had barely been examined when late Tuesday evening, the Northern View posted a story to its website that offered up an explanation of sorts on the latest developments, with a few details of the ongoing legal process between Sun Wave and the City, which now has apparently been put in the hands of mediator.

Both the Mayor and Sun Wave's local representative Bill Belsey declined to offer up any further information on the process, but both appear to be suggesting that there is progress on that particular front.

The legal situation over the last few months seems to have slowed down the process of finding a buyer for the site, bringing on a fair bit of time since last December when the Mayor once described himself as the most optimistic person in Prince Rupert  with thoughts that the mill wouldn't be in the city's hands for long.

As time has shown, the saga has gone but six weeks short of a year now, a tiring drama that featured much talk but little information it seems, with frequent declarations that nothing can be said at the moment due to negotiations or litigation.

For a refresher course on the saga of Watson Island, we offer up our archive of past stories on the file since the city gained possession last September.

One hopes that indeed the Mayor is correct this time and that perhaps a resolution to the legal situation and a subsequent sale is on the way.

If not, one imagines that when the council begins their community consultation sessions in the fall, Rupertites will have many questions to ask on the topic.  Having had a year to formulate an opinion and having had a year of learning little on the file from its council and city administration, except the growing cost of maintenance on the site and the legal requirements that came from the court sessions with Sun Wave.

After 11 months plus, local residents probably wouldn't mind an update that offers up more than hints of a solution one day, as well as some kind of statement from  the city other than we can't comment at this time.

Tuesday's item from the Northern View is provided below,

City and Sun Wave in mediation to seek a solution to ongoing Watson Island debate 
Shaun Thomas
The Northern View
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

While the community waits to hear about the future of the Watson Island site, which has been the focus of at least two court proceedings involving the City of Prince Rupert and Sun Wave Forest Products, both parties say they are heavily involved in trying to find a resolution to the dispute that won’t involve a lengthy court process.

 “Mediation is part of the process, it is something that both parties have to partake in and the City is doing that. We don’t have any results on that, but in terms of movement and trying to resolve an issue the mediation process is part of it,” said Mayor Jack Mussallem, adding that he was unable to comment on any specifics while discussions are ongoing.

 “I would like to believe that the matter can be resolved with a minimal amount of cost to the City…Which way it’s going to go I’m not sure because there is a third party involved.”

Bill Belsey, who has been working on behalf of Sun Wave since the mill became property of the City last fall, also confirmed mediation was ongoing and was hopeful for a resolution.

 “We’re going through the mediation process and there’s still some details outstanding but we’ll work through those,” he said, adding that an agreement between the two restricted what could be discussed about the matter publicly.

“There will be a point in time when everything is signed and sealed that we will be able to go into detail.”

Among the issue in the disputes was the rights of Sun Wave, who made an offer to purchase the land from the City in a recent tax sale that saw all of the offers rejected by the City, to access the equipment and what equipment belonged to who.

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