Council to vote on mill resolution

Duane Hicks

Having received word that Resolute Forest Products intends to open the future of the local mill to a competitive bidding process that will close on March 15, town council will vote tonight on a resolution to demand Resolute Forest Products comply with the terms of the Sustainable Forest Licence (SFL) for the Crossroute Forest.
The resolution also asks Resolute to allow all bidders on the mill the ability to engage in dialogue with government prior to submitting their bid and allow more time for bids on the mill to be prepared and submitted.
It also requests that the town, in confidence, be informed of the identity of bidders so it may engage in discussions with them and provide information that is responsive to the bidders’ plans for the mill properties.
“We want to make sure that the public policy reflected in the tenure system in the Sustainable Forest Licence is reflected in the way this process is transacted with respect to the mill,” said Coun. Douglas Judson, who drafted the resolution as a non-agenda item at tonight’s regular meeting of council.
The town received correspondence from Resolute on Friday about the competitive bidding process, as well as the company’s default intention to sell the mill to a “community redeveloper”–a company the town believes would dismantle the mill and Fort Frances’ key economic asset.
“I have little confidence that the open bidding process Resolute has announced for the mill is intended to result in a sale to an operator of the facility who would want access to wood fibre in the local Crossroute Forest,” Coun. Judson remarked.
He noted two previous offers to purchase and operate this facility fell through over rights to access wood fibre in the Crossroute Forest, which Resolute continues to hold the provincial license for–and continues to harvest to fuel its mill in Thunder Bay.
This all comes as Natural Resources and Forestry minister John Yakabuski is in Kenora today.
“The minister has robust authority over the licence for the Crossroute Forest that is currently held by Resolute,” Coun. Judson said.
“That licence clearly specifies that wood from the Crossroute Forest is–first and foremost–intended to fuel the Fort Frances mill.
“Resolute shuttered this mill in 2013 but continued to harvest wood from our forest to take elsewhere,” he added.
Fort Frances area communities and their residents “are right to have significant concerns about how the process for the sale of the mill is unfolding, and whether their best interests and the public policy underlying the forest licence is being respected,” Coun. Judson stressed.
Tonight’s council meeting will follow the committee of the whole meeting, which gets underway at 4 p.m. (not 5:30 p.m. as was stated in “Around Town” in Thursday’s Daily Bulletin).
Four in-camera item are on the agenda, including Agency One matters, an expression of interest in land, an RFP for a consultant’s report, and a personnel matter.
Other business on the agenda for tonight’s includes:
•a presentation on the local Cultural Heritage Tree Project by Tony Elders;
•a report re: the municipal tree canopy policy;
•the annual per capita contribution request from the Rainy River Future Development Corp.;
•an airport facility lease renewal;
•a recommendation re: use of the Point Park for this year’s “Relay for Life”; and
•per diem claims for Couns. Michael Behan, Andrew Hallikas, Douglas Judson, and Rick Wiedenhoeft for their attendance at the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual general meeting held Jan. 19 in Stratton.