Friday, February 27, 2015

Not even a whisper about Watson Island in the City's Budget Overview

Watson Island, it's a topic that as we remember from the past, was once a dominant talking point in the community, but of late a theme that  doesn't seem to have provided for much of a public review.

Leaving a void in the flow of information when it comes to updates on the burden of cost that the City has to shoulder from the site, while the ongoing court case related to Watson Island moves forward.

The industrial site was particularly absent in the Budget Overview of Monday evening, as the City's Financial Officer, Corinne Bomben made no mention of such things as monthly burn rates, remediation work costs or other financial items related to the city's most controversial and longest running issue.

A quick scan of the accompanying documentation from her Budget Review would seem to indicate that Watson Island remains a bit of a financial item of note for the City to consider.

Year to Date figures for the end of 2014 still suggest that the financial bottom line for the industrial site is far from solved just yet.

With Revenues from Watson Island as of the end of 2014 noted to be $815,712, while Expenditures for the site to the end of 2014 were listed at $1,813,005.

Which would seem to suggest a shortfall of $997,000 remains for the year just past.

Looking forward, the spreadsheet delivers a notice that on the Revenue side for Watson Island it's anticipated that the site will seemingly provide for 120,000 dollars to the City for 2015, with no other forecast on the financials made for the following four years.

Those 2015 projections however seem considerably diminished from the expectations of the past.

Beyond the kind of work that keeps accountants and lawyers occupied, the issue of progress (if any) on the Watson Island File is something that the new City Council would appear to be keeping to themselves for the moment.

Since Mayor Brain and his council of six took office on December 3rd, Watson Island has not been mentioned once in public session. With no public updates to be found from City Staff as to the cost to the city when it comes to maintenance, or other related issues with the site.

Nor have there been any disclosures or comments from the elected officials, to advise Prince Rupert residents  if the long running saga is coming near an end.

Included in that ongoing silence, is a lack of any kind of indication as to the status of the once highly trumpeted plan of an LNG terminal for the location.

The proposal from the proponent of WILNG (Watson Island LNG) never really offered up much of a public presence even as it was being rolled out, or for that matter, in the period of months that followed the original announcement.

The City for its part, has not made mention of it in months either, the last real development there coming in July of 2014 when the City announced it's exclusivity agreement with the proponent.

Since then it's been all quiet on the WILNG front, that project perhaps now lost in the wake of the shiny new Exxon/Mobil proposal suggested for Tuck Inlet.

Considering the importance that the Watson Island issue has had over the years, the unresolved items of note surrounding the industrial land requires some kind of an update from the Mayor and City Council.

Particularly as we head into a Budget deliberation period, where any future surprises from the industrial site could change the dynamic of any Civic financial blue print.

While they weren't frequent, and for the most part not particularly full of many details, the previous Mayor and council of 2011-2014 did from time to time at least, make an attempt to provide some background on developments from Watson Island.

Whether it was by way of a report from the Financial Officer, or the route used most often, which featured some short personal observations from then Mayor Jack Mussallem, residents of the city at least received for the record, a few glimpses of the state of Watson Island.

Such was the dominant theme of Watson Island on the last Council, that as he was leaving office, Mayor Mussallem offered up one final comment on the industrial site, a review that framed much of his final term of office.

The Mayor's remembrance of the past and guidance for the new council memorable for his observation of Watson Island and "what a hell hole it can be".

Now, close to three months later, for the most part it seems that the "hell hole" of Watson Island, has seemingly become the "place of which we shall not name".

Still out there just off the Port Edward bypass road, ticking away, perhaps ready to spring another surprise on a community that most likely thinks it has seen it all when it comes to developments from the industrial site.

To refresh all our memories, some of the major developments from the Watson Island files of 2014 and before can be found on our archive page.

Our archive of 2015, which so far consists of but one item (and you're reading it at the moment), can be reviewed here.

For more items related to City Council developments see our archive here.

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