MRC meeting - PPJ repair, community forest pilot project, housing strategy

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Added: Wed, 08/29/2018 - 11:57pm
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Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL'S BAY – The monthly Council of Mayors meeting was held at the MRC office, August 16, focusing on new staff, grants awarded, a community forest proposal, PPJ Cycloparc repair and a housing strategy for the Pontiac.
Warden Jane Toller introduced Litchfield resident Kim Lesage, the MRC's new in-house engineer, who will also be available to municipalities when needed.
After hearing a presentation from Joe Kowalski from Wilderness Tours concerning the creation of a national park around French, Green and Lafontaine islands in Ile-du-Grand-Calumet (see page 2) at their plenary committee meeting, Council resolved to appoint Mayor Maurice Beauregard (Campbell's Bay) to join Mayor Serge Newberry (Ile-du-Grand-Calumet) and the MRC's new Economic Development Officer (once hired)on a committee concerning the project. 
The MRC accepted a $49,000 tender bid from CAI Global for an investor attraction project; Desjardins is covering $40,000 of the cost. The company will reach out to over 200 companies/investors across North America to market and promote the Pontiac region. Mayors Winston Sunstrum (L'Isle-aux-Allumettes) and Colleen Lariviere (Litchfield) were appointed to a committee to follow this project.
Council accepted a $74,000 grant from SAUVeR to install an electric car charging station at the MRC building, construct a shelter, and purchase a car. The car may be shared with public transit like TransporAction. Toller hopes to install additional charging stations in L'Isle-aux-Allumettes and Rapides-des-Joachims eventually.  
Community forest
Council resolved to partner with the Kitigan Zibi First Nations to ask the government to designate 150,000 square hectares of public forests running from the Lac Dumont area to Bryson as a community forest pilot project, the first in Québec.
“There's a shortage of land to harvest and a lot of people needing work,” said Toller, who explained the government created the concept of community forests in 2012, but hasn't moved forward with designating any.
The designation would give the MRC and the local wood board the power to determine who has cutting rights to the land. “There would be a part of the Pontiac's forests that belongs to us, and only us... we would have control. The Pontiac has always had to be in a defensive position with our forests because we are so rich in resources. When the mills closed and we lost our cutting rights, we were descended upon by all these [outside] companies,” explained Toller, stating a community forest would be a huge asset for the proposed Biomass Conversion Centre.
PPJ repair
After the major washout of the PPJ trail near Moorehead Road in Litchfield late this spring and consequent negotiations between the MRC and the engineer and contractor responsible for the work, the trail will be repaired in September. While admitting no fault, Tom Orr Cartage will repair the trail at no additional cost, but the MRC must purchase a new culvert for $12,500. The MRC’s new engineer, Kim Lesage, will oversee the work. Toller said the issue has been ongoing for “far too long” and something had to be done soon to address it.      
She said there are “many different theories” about what caused the problem, but would not disclose any.
The issue was first discussed during May's MRC meeting when Council resolved to seek a “third party's” (engineer's) opinion on the problem. At the time, Toller said it appeared the washout occurred during the spring thaw when water ran around the culvert rather than through it. Gabriel Lance, MRC Assistant Director General, later said ice and snow in the fill and surrounding the culvert may have been to blame.
Housing strategy
With the anticipated opening of the Livewell growing facility in Litchfield, the mayors are looking into developing a regional housing strategy to broaden housing options for any new residents. “They are projecting that 165 people will be hired when they open and up to 500 in the future. Where will they all live?” said Toller, noting Renfrew recently developed a housing strategy in light of the news about Livewell.    
“Every municipality has planned out residential zones and just need builders and buyers,” she added. Council will do an inventory of what is available, look into government funding initiatives to “kick-start” building, and work with real estate agents to market the properties. “We have to move forward as quickly as possible,” Toller concluded.