MRC meeting - PPJ debate smoulders, mayors question Ministry stonewalling

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Added: Wed, 08/28/2019 - 10:55pm
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Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL’S BAY – Audience chairs were full again at the monthly MRC Pontiac Council of Mayors meeting, August 21, with a number of presentations and questions regarding the future of the PPJ trail.
Kathryn Dupuis, a Mansfield resident and cottage owner between Davidson and Waltham, outlined why allowing ATVs on the PPJ would not be wise: safety; security given that the MRC has battled ATV vandalism on the trail before and the Sureté du Québec said there will be no additional staffing to police it; detrimental effects on the Macrocarpa campground; environmental impacts like disturbed turtle nesting grounds; and nuisances (noise, dust, increased exposure to theft and vandalism, decreased property values, etc.) for nearby residents and cottagers, who contribute a large tax base and contribute to the local economy with
their purchases. (See letter on page 5.)   
Lynne Lavery from Les Amis du Cycloparc PPJ reviewed what the group has done this year: organized weekly rides in Shawville and Campbell’s Bay and a monthly ride in Waltham, which the group hopes to expand; and created a directory of the
businesses and services available along the trail. Lavery stressed that promotion is critical for the trail’s success, but that very little has been invested in recent years.
Doug Hillman a cottager from Devonshire Park along the PPJ, asked Danielle Newman, MRC Economic Director, if studies have been done to determine if revenue would actually increase for businesses in proximity to the PPJ if ATVs were permitted on the trail. Newman confirmed no studies were completed and Toller said their figures have been based on the experiences of other regions.
Lavery as well as Natalie Swanson, a Clarendon resident, both asked if a cost-benefit analysis will be done and if the public will be consulted on any proposed decision.
Mayor Gaston Allard (Fort-Coulonge) replied that given the amount invested in the PPJ over the years, they are opening the file to determine “if this is working or not”, and added, “We’re looking at all the options … this is a long-term thing and we’re really going to do our homework,” he said.
Mayor Maurice Beauregard (Campbell’s Bay) said the public will eventually be consulted.    
There were conflicting statements from the audience and the mayors about the change made at the June meeting to the original resolution, which included looking at an ATV only option for a portion of the trail. Toller concluded that she committed to re-opening the file during the election, but that no preliminary
decisions have been made and Council will be “very transparent”. 
A meeting with the committee and a representative from Vélo-Québec, who oversees the Route verte, was re-scheduled for Thursday, August 22, but details of that meeting are not yet available.
Other business
A representative of the Association of Residents of Coulton, Bertrand and Wright Lakes asked for financial assistance to maintain their 21 kilometer access road. The Association has already invested about $7,500 to grade 17 kilometers, but lacks the funds to continue. Warden Jane Toller said the issue will be investigated.
Philippe Paquette said the 4” of gravel used to resurface the Bois-Franc Road in Mansfield from kilometer 18 to 40 isn’t enough and will end up in the ditches when it’s graded. Mayor Gilles Dionne (Mansfield) agreed, noting the MRC must push to have the standard 8” applied. 
John Petty, a founding organizer of the Pontiac Terry Fox Run, asked
mayors to support, participate in, and advertise the event, taking place at Pontiac High School in Shawville on September 15. Council awarded a $250 sponsorship and manymayors made a personal donation to the cause.
Council will spend $10,000 to prepare the lot next to the MRC headquarters, purchased to build a garage for TNO equipment; topsoil removal, gravel, and creating a parking area and entrance. 
Four TNO bridges will be repaired at a cost of about $300,000: Lac Bleau/ Rapides des Joachims; McCann Creek; and two in Black River/Lac Cahill. The province will provide 90% of the funding.
Council resolved to ask the Ministry of Public Security to hasten the
compensation process for flood victims so they can proceed with rebuilding or renovations before winter.
The MRC will submit a Regional Support Fund (FARR) application to
complete three projects: develop a territorial marketing strategy; phase 2 of its investor attraction plan, including hiring a “welcoming agent”; and measures
to conserve and enhancethe region’s natural environment. Council supported Piscine Pontiac’s FARR application. 
Council will ask Hydro Québec to explain the reasons for the frequent hydro outages in the Upper Pontiac, address the problem, and visit the MRC to clarify the situation.
With news of Bell Canada’s plan to cut about 200,000 households from their rural expansion plan, Council will send Bell a letter stating their opposition and suggest the company work with and invest in the Pontiac.
Building on a resolution passed by Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, Council requested that the governmentinvestigate the Ministry of the Environment’s permit
application process, which it claims is riddled with long and unwarranted delays
that impact the region’s economic development. The resolution was preceded by a meeting with representatives of the Pontiac Sorting Centre who have requested a certificate of authorization to create a landfill across the road from its operations, which the business says will allow it to comply with Ministry regulations.  
The next MRC meeting is September 18.