Warden Toller hosts Town Hall meetings

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Added: Wed, 06/20/2018 - 9:56pm
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Warden Jane Toller presents a site plan for the Pontiac pool project, to be located beside the arena in Fort-Coulonge.

Peter L. Smith, Allyson Beauregard & Lionel Tessier

MRC PONTIAC – MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller hosted a series of town hall meetings providing information, answering questions and taking suggestions in five municipalities recently, regarding the MRC’s performance on eleven identified priorities. She was in L'Isle-aux-Allumettes June 5, Campbell's Bay June 11, Shawville June 12, Otter Lake June 13, and Fort-Coulonge June 14 with an agriculture-focused meeting in Campbell’s Bay June 4.
Toller explained that the Pontiac is the fourth poorest region in Québec and agriculture is its biggest sector (31%). The region has lost 25% of its farmers, which has contributed to population decline alongside the decline of the forest industry and closure of the area's mills.
1. Internet and cellular coverage
Toller said 'dead zones' have been identified in the region, and the MRC is studying other practices across Canada to identify the best solutions and how to create revenue. She is working with Vallée-de-la-Gatineau and the MRC's two school boards to review the terms and conditions of their agreements with Picanoc.
2. Increased forestry
A special forestry committee has been established and work continues on the Biomass Conversion Center. Discussion is also underway with the owners of Jovalco and Pin Davidson.
3. Increase agriculture operations
The MRC has requested special status for agriculture from the provincial government as well as $2 million to implement a producers program. Since the recent launch of Arterre, a service that pairs aspiring farmers without land with farmland owners without succession, there are now 12 aspiring farmers and 13 property owners in the network. The MRC is also looking to address drainage problems by equally sharing the costs with farmers. Toller stressed that the new Shawville slaughterhouse project has potential to strengthen the agriculture industry and provide local jobs.
4. Pontiac Pool
Piscine Pontiac hopes to obtain the land next to the arena in Fort-Coulonge for $1 for the non-profit “health and wellness center”.
Architect plans are competed and the $12 million cost will be funded by federal and provincial governments, fundraising and corporate sponsorship. Toller indicated 25 companies have expressed interest in donating. The facility will be wheelchair accessible with a user-pay system. Next steps involve securing government funding and soliciting additional corporate sponsors.
Some residents in Shawville expressed concern about whether there will be enough revenue to cover the costs of the pool's annual upkeep. 
5. Improve road infrastructure
Repairs to the Marchand Bridge in Mansfield are underway.
The MRC is looking at requesting funding from logging companies to repair damaged bush roads as well as using the TNO surplus to fund additional repairs.
The MRC will have their future in-house engineer assess the cost of building a bridge between Mansfield and Ile-du-Grand-Calumet to improve access, especially to the CLSC, and to offer a secondary route to leave the island in case of emergencies.
6. French CÉGEP and trades programs
In September, a French CÉGEP course about hemp handling will be offered in Campbell's Bay.
7. Increase composting and recycling
Municipalities want to divert recyclable and compostable materials sent
to Lachute to save money through increased rebates and decreased transportation costs. According to the MRC’s environment department, if 2/3 of compostable and
recyclable materials were diverted, it would represent a 42% annual savings.
8. ATV trails network
Toller stressed the PPJ trail is not an option for ATVs, but the MRC is working on expanding the trail network by using bush and municipal roads, and sections of Highway 148, collaborating with Pontiac’s MNA and Minister of Transport, André Fortin.
9. Tourism marketing
The MRC hopes to create one dynamic website combining all of the region's
services in one location, including the 18 municipalities, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Pontiac, Industrial Park, school boards and other partners.
10. Regional Industrial Park
Both Livewell Canada and Wakefield Properties are working to clean up the
site: “Exciting plans for the property are in the works,” said Toller.
11. Small business creation/ Main-Street revitalization
Toller said empty spaces in each municipality need to be assessed and  through consultation with the public determine what is needed to fill voids. Funding for improvements is available through the FARR program.
Sphinx mining update
Normand Champigny, CEO of Sphinx mining, spoke at the meeting in Campbell's Bay and said since 2014, $1.4 million has been invested in prospecting operations. Although palladium, copper, and gold deposits have been discovered, Champigny said they have not found rich enough concentrations.
Discoveries of zinc, the company's primary focus, have shown great potential; supply is declining across the globe, which means prices are steadily rising. However, Champigny said the company will not be opening a mine in the near future: “It takes time, typically 10 years or more before a mine is opened.”
In addition to operations in Ile-du-grand-Calumet, Sphinx is also doing exploratory work in Waltham.