Technical info on bridge to be revealed at meeting

Representatives from both sides of the border will get a better idea of what kind of shape the international bridge here is in after a meeting slated Jan. 31 in International Falls.
“We’ve got a joint letter from the province and the state who have honoured our request to analyze the financial and the engineering aspects of the bridge,” Mayor Dan Onichuk said after a meeting of the Border Communities Organization yesterday afternoon at the Civic Centre.
“Right now, they’re jointly looking at the inspection reports, the life of the bridge, and those sorts of things,” he added.
“This meeting [Jan. 31] is about getting that together and giving us a presentation on their views on all of that,” the mayor said. “It’s for the province and the state to share their views on the technical data.
“It’s really important because that has an impact on whatever the price is going to be,” he remarked. “If you’re in a situation where the steel part of the bridge needs to replaced in 25 years, that takes the price of it from here to here.”
Unfortunately, added the mayor, much of the specific financial information on the bridge won’t be available.
That’s because its joint owners, the International Bridge and Terminal Company and the Minnesota Dakota and Western Railway, along with their parent companies, Abitibi-Consolidated and Boise Cascade, have yet to retain a broker and thus haven’t released those numbers.
But Mayor Onichuk noted seeing the province and state working together, and with the two municipal governments on each side of the bridge, is a very important step.
“We’ve got them communicating. They’ve designated contact people for us,” said the mayor.
“The province of Ontario has got their director of transportation planning engaged, they’ve got a financial person from the ministry engaged, so as the stuff comes, we know who’s dealing with it and who to phone, which is really key in putting this together,” he stressed.
The Jan. 31 meeting will take place at 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn.
Also at yesterday’s meeting here, the group discussed how U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar showed his support for the possible purchase of the bridge at a meeting in International Falls on Wednesday.
Falls Mayor Shawn Mason noted Oberstar is “very interested in helping” in the acquisition of the bridge, and outlined a number of ways the border communities could go about possibly getting it.
Oberstar had said that perhaps the best way to go about it was to form an international bridge authority, which would have equal control on both sides of the border.
Mayor Onichuk noted Oberstar said one possible way of transferring ownership of the bridge would be for the companies to sell it for $1 to the province and state, with the governments on either side giving the companies tax credits equal to an agreed upon price.
Mayor Mason said Oberstar would be putting his ideas down on paper and giving his report to the Border Communities Organization down the road.
The bridge was announced for sale back on Nov. 3 when its owners determined it was not a core business asset.

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