Town will have its input on dam issue, mayor vows

FORT FRANCES—With the committee of adjustment having approved applications from Abitibi-Consolidated to sever the dam property here from the rest of the mill with the aim to start a separate hydro-generating asset, town council had to tell local union reps Monday night that it can’t stop the process at this stage.
But while it was revealed that council cannot, under the Planning Act, overturn a judgment made by the committee of adjustment, the town will represent its citizen’s best interests when the union’s appeal of the property severance goes to a Ontario Municipal Board hearing at a yet-to-be-determined date.
“The committee of adjustment made a decision,” Mayor Dan Onichuk said after Monday night’s meeting. “It’s been suggested they made that decision without a lot of the information. I think there’s some fact in that.
“Having said that, that authority is delegated to the committee of adjustment,” he added. “We do not have a right to say you can’t do that or you can do that.
“We have a right to go the Ontario Municipal Board.
“We are the town, we will be represented there, and make our feelings on that decision known—very similar to the CEP local unions have done, they’ll be making their position known,” continued the mayor.
“There’s more information we’re waiting on, there’s lawyers working on things for us,” he stressed.
The matter of the property severance goes back to June, when Abitibi made 11 applications for consent to the town’s committee of adjustment. This was advertised in the June 30 edition of the Daily Bulletin.
While applications covered various aspects of the properties (such as easements in perpetuity for the purposes of maintenance, or ingress/egress and access to certain properties), in simplest terms, “the purpose of all the applications, in one way or another, were to separate the mill’s power-generating assets from the pulp and paper assets,” municipal planner Faye Flatt had said Monday afternoon.
These 11 applications went before the committee of adjustment on July 17, at which time it approved them all.
This then was followed by a 20-day appeal period, during which time an appeal was filed by Toronto law firm Caley Wray, representing appellant Allan T. Bedard, backed by the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.
The applications and appeal now will be sent to the Ontario Municipal Board, said Flatt. Once the OMB receives everything, it will set a hearing date.
Mayor Onichuk said it is crucial the town, Abitibi, and the unions have a meeting prior to this hearing and discuss issues such as the land severance, the proposed power company, and, just as importantly, the “hog fuel” boiler.
“In November of last year, we had a meeting with the three where we talked about the future of the mill, the potential of the bio-mass boiler, and why it was necessary, and why we all had to join arms and go down this path to show the [Abitibi] board of directors that all the partners, all the players, want this to happen, and to encourage the board of directors to say ‘That’s a good place to invest $70 million,’” the mayor said.
“We need to get back to where we were in November. That’s the most important thing,” he stressed. “We need to go in there singing the same song, and showing the board of directors this is what we want.
“The future of Fort Frances depends on it as it relates to the paper mill,” Mayor Onichuk warned. “There’s some communication gaps that need to be filled.”
In response to Mayor Onichuk’s call for a meeting between the town, Abitibi, and the unions, Bedard said, “We’re prepared to work with you.”
In related news, council passed a motion Monday night to file an intervention with Abitibi’s application to the Ontario Energy Board to split off its hydro-electric generation assets into a subsidiary.
“That is to make sure that there we protect the rights of the citizens, of the residents of Fort Frances, as it relates to the power agreement, and we will do that,” said Mayor Onichuk.
“If there is a broader issue, as it relates to economic development, I’m sure the energy board is going to listen to that.
“We’re making that application, and we will do everything we can to protect the interests of everybody—people that work in the mill, the company, the residents of Fort Frances, everybody,” he vowed.
Abitibi reported back in mid-July that it had applied to the Ontario Energy Board to split off its hydro-electric generation assets into a subsidiary.
(Fort Frances Times)