Push for abattoir moves to next phase

BARWICK—After more than three months of research and fact-finding by the board of directors of the Rainy River District Regional Abattoir, the results were presented to members last Thursday night at the Barwick Community Centre.
And with 34 votes cast, there was a unanimous decision to continue with the next phase of the project.
“The purpose of the meeting is to provide a progress report and summarize the board’s proposed approach,” RRDRA president Steve Loshaw explained to the nearly 60 individuals present.
The RRDRA board advised:
•the abattoir be built to federal standards and operate provincially;
•that some processing will be required to make the abattoir viable;
•a “kill only” plant is not feasible; and
•that they must decide whether to lease the property or hire a manager and staff.
It also was noted the site and waste management must be compatible, and that the board needs to continue with a membership drive and fundraising.
RRDRA secretary Bill Darby explained the board considered different operations for how the facility could be run, such as:
•being built to federal standards and operating federally;
•being built to federal standards, and operating provincially; and
•being built to provincial standards, and operating provincially.
“But we began to realize there wasn’t much of a difference building to provincial or federal standards,” Darby said.
However, considering additional costs—as well as licensing, social, environmental, and marketing criteria—of operating at a federal level, it was advised a plant built to federal standards and operating provincially was the preferred alternative.
“We also considered a kill only facility, kill with break down, or kill with some processing,” Darby added. “But we need to have some processing to make the facility viable.”
He indicated with the mortgage, taxes, cost of equipment, and employees, $150,000 won’t go very far and they will need more revenue.
Darby also noted a membership survey had been distributed—with a response from 58 members—to help to identify current needs and future prospects.
“From the numbers, we can estimate there will be about 1,500 animals a year for custom slaughter,” he said, though adding about half of the respondents noted that they expect an increase in the next five years.
“That could bring us up to 2,000 custom kills a year, but we can’t count on an iffy estimate,” he warned.
Still, Darby said these numbers have factored into the proposed size of plant and how it might run.
Geoff Gillon, with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., then discussed the on-going research into possible building sites for the abattoir project.
“We surveyed nine sites, mostly in the mid-district, but one of our decisions is choosing between a municipal or rural location,” he remarked, noting that locating within a municipality will bring higher taxes, but water and sewer would be provided.
“We have to balance the needs of the facility with what’s best in the long run,” Gillon added.
Zoning, road access, electrical, and environmental issues also were considered, he said.
“We have three in the running as best sites,” Gillon enthused. “But there may be others out there as good or better, and we’ll have to look at that over the next few months.”
RRDRA director Ken McKinnon later highlighted the draft constitution, which was handed out to all members. He said the board plans to finalize the incorporation of the RRDRA—and the draft constitution—by the next general membership meeting in early December.
“Until we’re incorporated, we can’t finalize the constitution,” he explained. “We might have to make minor changes, but everyone can look it over and submit any suggestions in writing.”
Finally, Darby explained the “Expressions of Interest,” with two options the board is reviewing for operation of the abattoir—namely, whether to hire a manager and staff, or lease the facility to an operator.
“[The latter] allows a business to come in and operate the facility after we build the building,” he stated. “We need to know if there are companies who are serious about this.”
The operators would purchase the equipment for the facility. If an operator isn’t found, the board would have to hire staff and carry the cost of the equipment.
There is a survey to fill out for interested companies and the RRDRA hopes to receive their responses in the next few weeks.
“It’s not a legal document, but it will help us to sense and gauge the interest,” Darby said.
He also stressed the board would be sure to negotiate a favourable contract between the RRDRA and the operator.
Loshaw also provided the members with a progress report of the board meetings, which have been taking place every two weeks. The board had heard several presentations on different issues and also toured abattoirs in Manitoba to obtain ideas.
As well, a two-year timeline was established.
He reported there are 78 paid members to date and a bank balance of $40,994.21.
“None of the membership money has been spent,” Loshaw stressed, noting the board received $5,000 from the RRFDC’s Local Initiatives Fund to cover research, travel costs, and incorporation.
The members agreed the board should continue with the next phase of the project as outlined:
•complete a business plan;
•seek tenure on property;
•review operator/lessee proposals; and
•develop blueprints.
Currently, voting members are required to have paid their $500 membership fee, but the pledged loan of $2,000 will be required prior to Feb. 28, 2007.
“We thought it was important to have your support,” Loshaw remarked while thanking the members and directors. “We’re glad to see you think we are headed in the right direction.”
But he stressed the board still would like to see more support.
The goal of the RRDRA is “to construct an environmentally-friendly abattoir in the Rainy River District, that operates legally and efficiently on a not-for-profit basis, providing for the legal slaughter of a variety of livestock.”
“Operation of this facility should be simple, with potential for a marketing edge and opportunity for growth,” it adds.
(Fort Frances Times)