(Aspen lot pictured this morning (Oct 2), it's believed they have about three weeks of logs remaining)
Last week a letter was released detailing the allocation of the NDP’s Forestry funding.
The following is a paragraph from the document;
‘Recognizing that communities are important partners in the delivery of services for workers and contractors, interior communities addressing a permanent closure will receive $100,000, communities addressing indefinite full-facility closure will receive $75,000 and communities dealing with shift reduction will have access to a pool of funding to provide defined services for impacted community members.’
At the time, the City of Merritt wasn’t sure which category they’d fall.
“The City of Merritt is just looking to better understand which of the three categories we fall into, whether it would be permanent closure because of the Tolko closure, or whether it’s the shift curtailment category because of Aspen’s shift reductions,” said Director of Corporate Services Sean Smith at the time.
Following a meeting with Parliamentary Secretary of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Ravi Kahlon and Ministry staff, it appears the picture has become somewhat clearer.
“Still in the dark, and you have to remember we don’t qualify as-is for any of the transitional funding because we are not a closed facility at this point and it’s not retroactive to Tolko,” said Mayor Linda Brown.
“It doesn’t sound like Tolko will factor, but it should I feel, and maybe that’s something we should write about,” added CAO Scott Hildebrand.
Tolko which had operated in Merritt since 1987, was shut down in 2016 putting hundreds of workers out of a job. At the time President Brad Thorlakson cited the pine beetles and lowering of the annual allowable cut, in determining that there wasn’t enough supply for the Merritt operation to continue.
Mayor Linda Brown spoke to the dire situation at Merritt’s one remaining mill, Aspen Planers.
“Most of the Ministry didn’t recognize how the whole system works with the stumpage fees. We’re saying this is what Aspen is saying, the stumpage is too high to cut logs, and they’re saying well diversify. I’m saying, well you have all these areas like post and beams, NMV and Pine Ideas and they can’t get logs either, they cant get timber,” said Brown.
“So, we aren’t only looking at the potential of losing Aspen, we’re also looking at the potential of losing Nicola Post and Rail, Coldwater Post and Rail, NMV, Pine Ideas, Log Works, they are all having difficulty with timber,” added Brown. “We’ve also lost truckers and contractors; it’s getting to be a really difficult time for the Merritt area.”
Aspen Planers only has about three weeks of logs left in their yard and have already reduced to one shift per day.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt