The Village of Port Alice has refused to give Neucel Specialty Cellulose another tax reduction in 2018.
It was declassified that a 25 per cent reduction in industrial taxation for Neucel for 2018 was denied at the village’s regular council meeting on Feb. 28.
“They came forward and they asked us for another reduction for this year, and we politely said no for a multitude of reasons,” said Mayor Jan Allen.
The village agreed to reduce property taxes for 2017 by 25 per cent from the 2016 taxes of $899,260.00, which was a total reduction of $224,825.00.
The terms of the 2017 agreement stated that “In acknowledgement of the Village reducing its property tax, Neucel hereby commits to start up the mill operation by December 31,2017 provided the Village is prepared to accept compliance with “start up” to have been established, if Neucel demonstrates substantial, demonstrable progress towards such startup by that date, even if actual production has not started.”
In December of last year, council requested a letter from Neucel proving there has been demonstrable progress towards start-up.
Allen confirmed they met with and received a letter from Neucel, but noted that council was not satisfied with the company’s response to their inquiry. “There was an agreement that we made that they would be up and running or working towards it — and showed us proof — and we felt it wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned,” said Allen.
She also addressed why the issue was dealt with in-camera (a private meeting).
“They did write us a letter but they asked us not to make it public yet, as it had names, ideas, and plans that they weren’t comfortable with us advertising and that is why we made the decision that we did,” said Allen, adding, “Hopefully sometime in the near future we can share that letter with you, but we can’t right now.”
Neucel recalled 25 workers (18 of which showed up for duty) on Dec. 10 of last year “to perform maintenance to preserve the mills assets” and “to prepare for a site visit from potential investors” according to a letter sent to employees by Neucel’s Vice-President of Human resources, Warren Beatty.
Neucel has been in a production curtailment since March of 2015.
The pulp mill was originally supposed to be shut down for only six months, but the conditions that existed in March (most notably the declining market price for Neucel’s product), continued to exist after the initial sixth-month curtailment and still exist to this day.