Thursday, January 24, 2013

More Woes of Watson shared with Vancouver media

“I wouldn’t wish this set of circumstances on any community in British Columbia,” said Mussallem. “Right now, it’s just dragging the community down.” -- Mayor Jack Mussallem, outlining to the Vancouver Sun, the impact on the community that the Watson Island troubles have provided.

We might not be hearing much on the state of Watson Island around Prince Rupert these days, but there seems to be a major effort to share the latest updates with the major newspapers of the country of late.

Yesterday, we recounted the latest item of note on the Watson Island saga that appeared in the Globe and Mail, a fascinating look at the current developments in the quest of the City of Prince Rupert to finally be rid of the industrial site.

Today, the Vancouver Sun has provided a rather helpful guideline to the timeline of the Watson Island situation, including a nice little bit of totalling up the financial toll on the city's coffers thus far.

From the Sun article we learn some of the history as to how the City came to be guardian of the site, a situation that has resulted in costs of 1 million dollars a year in maintenance costs, providing for a bill of over 3.5 million dollars since the city took the site back in 2009.

A number that the city says has been reduced owing to revenues from the site, (including the exclusivity deal with the Watson Island Development Corporation consortium), providing a net cost of around 1 million dollars to the city. And in  a bit of welcome news from 2012, provided for revenues trumping costs by about 100,000 dollars.

As well, with the ongoing court sessions with Sun Wave ownership, the city has according to the Sun article, spent over 250,000 dollars in legal fees already, with the clock still ticking as they say.

All of those financial requirements have resulted in the City having to review it's civic to do list, with items such as the replacement of the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre's diving board to be deferred until better financial times.

The Sun highlights the deal between the City and Watco, a proposed purchase that could finally remove the industrial site as an ongoing topic of discussion around the City council table.

However, there appears that one more item will rise up once the sale is closed and the legal proceedings have been completed.

That being the environmental remediation that will be required on the site. Even if the financial burden of Watson Island were to end today, there is still the issue of environmental liability of the lands, which is estimated to be at 20 million to 100 million dollars.

The City and Watco want the province to share in any environmental clean up costs on the site, something which as the Sun discovered in their article, that the Ministry of Environment wasn't quite ready to comment on just yet.

Meaning, we probably will be hearing much more on the topic of  Watson Island, even after the City puts the industrial site back on the active tax rolls and ready to generate revenue.

That environmental clean up issue, may account for the sudden interest of the Globe and the Sun.

It appears that the battle over the clean up of the site may soon be underway, and the provincial government no doubt may want to be studying the newspapers this week to better understand what's coming up next.

Gordon Hoekstra's article in the Sun is a pretty good briefing for the Liberal government, you can catch up for yourself, with the Sun's briefing notes here.

You can review all of our archived items on the Watson Island file from our Industrial Development section.

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