On Sept. 5, residents of Port Alice assembled in the Larry Pepper Room at the community centre to hear from two candidates, Sean Watson and Don Vye, who were both looking to fill a village council seat after it was vacated by Warren Beatty.
Vye came to Port Alice in 1989 and worked at the mill, mainly in maintenance, until there was no job left to be had. He considers himself lucky to be at an age that he can call himself semi-retired. He had previously served on village council, between 2006-2011, sitting on the public works and personnel committees. He and his wife Wendy plan to retire in Port Alice.
Watson has lived in Port Alice all of his life. He owns a small contracting company, is involved in the commercial, industrial and residential sectors, and is also a member of the Port Alice Marine Search and Rescue and the Port Alice Volunteer Fire Department. His goal is to provide a voice of reason in Port Alice in changing times.
As Neucel Specialty Cellulose has not paid its taxes for neither of the 2018 and 2019 taxation years, the mill dominated the discussion. Watson stated he was not sure what could be done about making Neucel accountable for their financial and environmental obligations, but he expressed the hope that “we don’t get stuck with it.”
Vye believes Port Alice has a serious challenge to deal with in regards to the mill. Not only is the town owed three million dollars in back taxes, but the Ministry of Environment has already done about five million dollars’ worth of clean up at the site. He asked, “Does the province’s work and what they’re owed supersede everybody else and the village is going to be left with nothing?”
Vye also believes that no one is going to want the property in a tax sale without some “environmental clarity.” He feels that the village needs to ask some very pointed questions of the province.
The candidates were also asked if they believed the mill could run again.
Vye believes it could run as a dissolving sulphite mill again. He has talked to people who used to work for Ranier and they believe, if you did it in phases, it could be done.
Even though his great grandfather worked at that pulp mill and his first job was to look after the horses that moved the equipment around, Watson responded to the question with an unequivocal “no.” Even though he has a vested interest in the mill starting up again because of all the contracting equipment he owns, he can’t see it happening. He states, “When something like that is sitting around a long time it would take… a lot to get it running. I would hope that it would, but I really don’t see it. I would like to hope that our town could support some other future venture.”
Councillor Bruce Lloyd brought up the subject that Port Alice has a $850-900,000 yearly budget and only takes in $300,000. He asked if the candidates had any ideas about reducing costs.
Both candidates suggested cutbacks where possible. Vye mentioned that if the numbers continue to not add up, he sees the possibility that Port Alice could become part of the regional district.
Election results from the Sept. 14 election: Watson, 194 votes; Vye, 63 votes. Watson is elected to council.
– Debra Lynn article