MRC: forestry, public safety, and FRR 4 projects

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Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative

MRC PONTIAC – The MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors’ monthly meeting was held October 18 at the MRC headquarters in Litchfield.

“Revive forestry!”
Nicolas Brodeur, Pontiac Forestry Producers Board president, spoke during the public question period. Marking the 15th anniversary of the closure of Smurfit-Stone, Brodeur said: “For us, it was a big day [the closure]. Forestry producers have been on a respirator since. We haven’t seen much initiative to improve the forestry sector since then… For 15 years, we’ve been unable to manage our forests because we can’t sell our wood.”

He thanked the MRC for funding received through the forestry management strategy, which he said has helped producers get by for a few years, but ultimately “We need to sell our wood.” Brodeur said producers currently ship low quality wood to the Eastern Townships where there’s a market for it. “The government is subsidizing long distance transport for low quality wood. It’s nonsense,” he said. Speaking of the quality of the Pontiac’s hardwood stands, he concluded:“Are we going to wait… do we have something to do? Our economy is forestry and agriculture. There are riches in the forest. Forestry is dear to us; we cannot let it fall.”

MRC Warden Jane Toller promised to schedule a forestry committee meeting within two weeks, acknowledging the committee hadn’t met in a long time. “We will make this a priority… We aren’t abandoning forestry. We’re very happy we got Commonwealth Plywood open, and we’re still working on Jovalco.”

Rapides-des-Joachims
Challenges faced by the Swisha community were raised a few times during the meeting. Toller said she’s going to work with MNA André Fortin to have Rapides-des-Joachims officially classified as an isolated community. The designation would give residents benefits including potential access to tax breaks, doctors, emergency care, and pharmacies in Ontario where services are more readily available.

Councillor Stephany Rauche noted the lack of availability of police services in the Swisha region, where the SQ are only scheduled to be once a month. The size of the Pontiac territory and limited number of SQ officers results in unanswered calls for police services in the remote community. Toller said the issue will be raised at the next public safety committee meeting.

In other Swisha news, Rauche said if there’s only one mayoral candidate, they will be acclaimed and take office on November 3. If an election is held, the new mayor will begin December 3

Public Safety
Alain Gagnon, mayor of Bryson, presented the annual public safety committee activity report. There were no fatal car accidents in the MRC in the past year, but impaired driving charges almost doubled and assault charges and threats increased.

False and fraudulent 911 calls continue to be a serious issue, mostly caused by unintentional “pocket dials” and children playing with deactivated cell phones.

FRR grants approved
18 projects will receive a total of $1,782,000 in funding through the Regions and Rurality Fund’s (FRR) fourth stream. The vitalization committee received 35 applications and approved 18 based on the funds available ($2 M). Those approved include 10 municipalities, 3 non-profit  organizations, 4 businesses, and one MRC project.

A wide variety of community initiatives will benefit from the funds, including $100,000 for AutonHomme Pontiac to set up temporary housing for single fathers in need and $450,000 towards the MRC’s AgriSaveur Pontiac agri-food processing project.

The vitalization committee also recommended making the urgent repairs needed to the cooling system at the Fort-Coulonge arena a regional priority so that the project will be eligible for an additional $250,000 in funding.