Town pushing to secure mill sale

Duane Hicks

Town officials have done their part and now only can take a “wait and see” approach as to what may happen with the prospective sale of the local pulp and paper mill.
During Monday night’s committee of the whole meeting, Mayor June Caul said she and Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown have been working “very hard to try to push forward the business deal between Resolute Forest Products and Repap Resources Group.
She noted they have sent letters to various ministers, and that she has been on several phone calls with Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Indigenous Affairs minister Greg Rickford, Finance minister Vic Fedeli, and others regarding the matter.
“We’ve had a good feeling about the conversations we’ve had now,” Mayor Caul remarked.
“Now what we need to do is just wait and see what’s going to happen as far as one company dealing with another in a business transaction,” she added.
Mayor Caul noted town representatives had a chance to speak with both Rickford and Sean Twomey of Repap during the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual general meeting held Jan. 19 in Stratton, and indicated to Twomey that the town wants to help in any way it possibly can.
“Please understand that, as much as we are doing, we are kind of now just waiting to see what happens in negotiations with the two companies,” she stressed.
In order for Repap to buy and restart the mill, it’s paramount it has access to a wood fibre supply.
Mayor Caul and Brown met with the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs during a provincial pre-budget consultation in Dryden back on Jan. 21.
At that time, they expressed their concern about the prospective owner having wood rights to the Crossroute Forest.
“We are doing what we can, for sure,” the mayor reiterated. “We are just kind of in a wait-and-see mode to see if anything’s going to develop there.”
As previously reported, if Repap purchases and restarts the mill, it intends to make packing grade and extensible sack kraft. This would be used to make cement or sugar bags, to cite two examples.
The restart of the mill would support 320 direct jobs being created for Rainy River District.
It also will result in $91 million in direct economic activity and support an additional 350 jobs–all of which will provide taxes and economic growth.
Also at Monday evening’s meeting, council:
•appointed Nicke Paddock to the Sunny Cove Camp Advisory Committee for a term ending Nov. 14, 2022;
•appointed Linda Hamilton to the local Police Services Board for a term ending Nov. 14, 2022;
•approved a report re: the 2018-19 provincial dedicated gas tax program and agreed to authorize the execution of a letter of agreement with the Ministry of Transportation for submission by Jan. 31 (council also passed a supporting municipal bylaw);
•received a financial request from the Heart of the Continent Partnership, with no further action to be taken;
•received a financial request from Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation and agreed to write a letter supporting its endeavour in principle at this time, with consideration to be given in 2020;
•agreed to approve the write-off of the 2012 Provincial Offences Act (POA) accounts receivable in the amount of $16,670.30 for accounting purposes only, recognizing this does not absolve a convicted offender from the requirement to pay a fine as debts to the Crown are owed in perpetuity and never forgiven;
•agreed there be no change to the invoice for the cost associated with the call-out for a plugged sewer at 279 Scott St. on Dec. 1, 2018; and
•agreed that a pull-behind sidewalk sanding trailer and sweeper attachment for the trackless sidewalk machine be purchased from Joe Johnson Equipment for $23,400, plus applicable taxes, without trying to obtain three quotations as per the town’s procurement policy.