Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wood supply concerns council

With the future operation of the mill here still uncertain, town council wants to know if the local wood supply will remain accessible for industrial purposes here or be sent elsewhere.
Coun. Ken Perry said Mayor Roy Avis has been trying to get a meeting with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and Ministry of Natural Resources to talk about the wood supply in Rainy River District if it is not going to be used by Resolute, and find out whether it instead will go to Thunder Bay, Dryden, or elsewhere.

He noted that perhaps a presentation could be delivered at the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) or Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conferences to deliver the message: “If we have wood in this area, let’s leave it in the area.”
“Why is it leaving the area when we could be using it here in whatever capacity is left to do here?”
Coun. Perry said he spoke to local MPP Sarah Campbell and suggested there should be a meeting with the MNR, area First Nations and municipalities, and any other stakeholders involved in forestry to talk about the local wood supply staying in Rainy River District.
Mayor Avis agreed it’s important that council get involved in this matter, noting he has been in contact with MNR area supervisor Jeff Wiume, who will make a presentation to council regarding forest tenure in the near future.
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig noted the idea of an ad hoc forestry committee was included in the town’s 2011 strategic plan but the situation has since changed, and it is now something the town needs to go further with.
The item was brought forward to the Economic Development Advisory Committee on Monday for more brainstorming.
Coun. Andrew Hallikas, who also is the town’s rep on the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association board, said Fort Frances isn’t the first town to be concerned about its local wood basket and that the issue has come up at NOMA meetings several times.
“It may be that council or EDAC may want to put this on a NOMA agenda for discussion and [get] some political input from them,” he suggested.
“They have a lot of political connections,” Coun. Hallikas added, noting the next NOMA meeting is Jan. 25.
McCaig said Mayor Avis has been very engaged with Resolute Forest Products since the layoff announcement in November, and been in direct consultation with Resolute CEO and president Richard Garneau and his assistants.
“It’s all to do with how we can work with Resolute on a go-forward basis in regards to a potential repositioning of the mill,” McCaig said.
“Anything that can be residual to what they’re doing right now, or anything new that can be done, I think the mayor has shown that we are fully committed and engaged to working with them to make that happen because obviously that’s crucial to our council,” he stressed.

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