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MRC meeting - Over $360K awarded to SMEs; plea to close Lac Dumont beach

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Added: Wed, 06/03/2020 - 1:50pm
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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – The region’s Council of Mayors convened via teleconference for their monthly meeting May 20, which was taped and posted on the MRC’s website. The mayors began with a moment of silence and tribute to Raymond Durocher, former warden and mayor of Fort-Coulonge (see page 20).   
For the first time, questions from the public were accepted in advance and answers were provided during the meeting; responses will also be sent in writing. Five questions were received ranging from whether the community forest project is still in the works (yes) and the situation with the beachfront septic system in Sand Bay (it’s in the municipality’s hands) to what the plan is for the Vision2030 public consultations (hoping to begin in the fall). Public questions will be accepted in advance for future meetings as well.
Public unorganized territory (TNO)
According to reports from Chantal Lamarche, warden of the MRC de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, over 200 people were at the Lac Dumont beach over the May long weekend, which posed a health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The MRC Pontiac will ask the Ministry of Wildlife, Forests and Parks to enforce the beach’s closure since the MRC has already made a considerable investment in blocking access despite the area being under the Ministry’s jurisdiction. A copy of the resolution was sent to the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
The TNO transferred ownership of its 2013 Ford F-150 to the MRC to use for PPJ maintenance for $8,000.
Construction on the TNO garage beside the MRC building has started and Josh Pasch Construction will install the concrete slab for the 40 x 48 foot building for $9,588. The MRC estimates the garage will cost about $102,000 to build and will be tendered by invitation with the lowest compliant bidder selected.
The MRC will pay local outfitters to brush and clear the shoulders of roads near Bryson Lake Lodge, Pontiac Lodge and Forant Lake Outfitters for a maximum of $24,000.
An agreement was signed with Mansfield to grade the Bois Franc Road from km 18 to 40 from May to October.
MRC business
Council thanked the Sûreté du Québec for patrolling access points to the region while COVID-19 travel restrictions were in place. “I think it really helped protect the Pontiac,” said Warden Jane Toller.
The MRC will provide $4,000 per year for three years to Écoute agricole des Laurentides to expand its agricultural mental health program to the Outaouais and hire two social workers to help the region’s agricultural sector workers. According to Cyndy Phillips, MRC Director of Economic Development, a study found that 51% of agricultural producers experience psychological distress compared to 25% in the general population. In the space of a few months in 2019, four Outaouais producers committed suicide.
The MRC will move forward with phase one of its territorial marketing strategy using $85,000 in FARR funding to hire Visages Regionaux to develop a brand platform, and create a visual identity and communications strategy. Phase two ($65,000) will involve training municipalities, creating a website and submitting a recommendations report.
Ten loans were approved through the emergency aid program for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), for a total of $360,650. Just over $170,000 still remains in the fund and the MRC is still accepting applications, available on the website.
Following Papineau and Vallée-de-la-Gatineau’s suit, the MRC will ask the Minister of Tourism to earmark some of Tourism Outaouais’ funding for the Pontiac to promote tourism projects and offerings since the wardens of these regions feel most of the money is focused on Gatineau.
WEPC and Eric Pilon Construction were given contracts to modernize and upgrade the MRC building’s access and security systems for $25,252.
Council asked the Québec Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources for a six month extension on the temporary suspension (6 months) of new mining claims in “areas inconsistent with mining” while each municipality reviews their territories, consults the population and finalizes their lists. “We’re still not ready to adopt a permanent list,” said Régent Dugas, MRC Director of Territory.
A few hydrometric stations will be installed in the MRC Pontiac to help map flood zones. The City of Gatineau is the manager of the project and the funds, so the MRC has asked that Gatineau assume the costs or reimburse the municipalities for installation. 
Given the difficult and precarious situation many local forestry workers find themselves in due to the closure of the Fortress mill, Council resolved to ask the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks to: adapt financial assistance programs to the needs of forestry entrepreneurs; provide financial assistance to deliver hardwood pulp to Rayonier in Temiscaming; honour the payment of Fortress’s debt to local producers (totalling over $250,000), and add commercial and non-commercial silviculture work to the list of what’s eligible for financial assistance for private forests, among other things. The mayors modified the resolution to include the Davidson mill as an option should it open in the short-term.
The next Council of Mayors meeting will be held June 17.