MRC meeting Universal suffrage vote delayed, Bois Franc Road repairs and more

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Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL’S BAY – The MRC Pontiac’s 18 mayors gathered February 21 at the MRC office for the monthly Council of Mayors meeting. The agenda included a presentation by Yves Martineau from the Sûreté du Quebec, a notice of an upcoming vote regarding universal suffrage, and a discussion about quad trails, among other things.

Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL’S BAY – The MRC Pontiac’s 18 mayors gathered February 21 at the MRC office for the monthly Council of Mayors meeting. The agenda included a presentation by Yves Martineau from the Sûreté du Quebec, a notice of an upcoming vote regarding universal suffrage, and a discussion about quad trails, among other things.
The meeting began with a moment of silence in honour of Ken O’Leary, a long-time Litchfield councillor, who passed away February 17. Colleen Larivière, Litchfield mayor, stressed how despite O’Leary’s illness, he continued to be involved in municipal affairs up until the week he passed away. “It is a great loss for our community,” she said.
During the public question period, local business owner Mike Allard asked what the status is on the file to allow ATVs to possibly use the PPJ’s overwidth. Warden Raymond Durocher reiterated that the use of the PPJ trail itself is completely off the table and that the MRC is looking at using the trail’s overwidth in certain areas to connect with other trails and municipal roads. He stressed the municipalities, quad and snowmobile clubs, cyclists, and other organizations must first work together to create a concrete plan before anything can move forward. 
Regent Dugas, MRC Directory of Territory, notified council about a proposal by Otter Lake for TNO waste management where the municipality will place bins within its transfer station to collect TNO trash. Bins were formerly placed along the Picanoc Road, but the lack of supervision at the site resulted in unaccepted materials being dropped and massive cleanups every year. A final agreement will be created and brought back to council at a later date.
Bois Franc Road
In response to a resolution to request $2 million in funding to improve
the Bois Franc Road, the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks responded to the MRC Pontiac saying there are funding programs available for multi-resource roads: one for forestry companies to improve roads to access timber, and one where the Ministry itself recommends certain projects. The latter was the case for the approved construction of a bridge spanning the Coulonge River which offers a shorter route between the TNO and the Maniwaki-Temiscaming Road to access timber harvests. The MRC supported the bridge’s construction, but in return asked for money to be invested in the Bois Franc Road.
Dugas explained that before the Ministry will recommend the road as a project, they will evaluate the wood supply available in the area and do a study on the amount of money needed to bring the road up to standards. “We have to prove the road’s strategic importance and present almost like a business [proposal],” said
Danielle Belec, MRC Communications Agent.
Durocher highlighted that the road is a necessity not only for forestry companies, but also cottagers, outfitters, and other area businesses. The TNO’s
timber could also be used to supply the Pontiac’s proposed Biomass Conversion Centre. “We have to convince the Ministry it’s a worthwhile [investment],” said Dugas.
Universal suffrage: yes or no?
Although a vote on whether to elect the warden by universal suffrage was originally planned to take place during the meeting, it was postponed to an Administrative Committee meeting on March 7 to give the mayors time to review a document that was handed out entitled “Warden elected by universal suffrage:
A good investment”.
The document outlines the benefits of the public electing the warden as well as the costs associated with the election (about $80,000 every four years), which Durocher describes as an investment rather than a cost. “The status quo in the MRC Pontiac cannot exist any longer. I’m not working to create myself a job,” he stressed, noting between his duties as a mayor and warden, he works between 60-70 hours per week.
Preparing to switch banks
Council passed a resolution to research opening a bank account at the
Caisse Desjardins in Fort-Coulonge in the event that the Laurentian Bank decides to move forward with their plan to close both of the Pontiac’s branches. “The news of us switching banks really aroused them. We are maintaining a certain pressure and have invited them to come here and see the situation,” said Durocher, who noted he has been in contact with Laurentian’s management on numerous occasions.
Sûreté du Quebec reorganization
Yves Martineau, acting chief of police in the Pontiac, briefed council on
a reorganization currently taking place within the Sûreté. “They are reducing the number of chiefs and increasing the number of patrolmen on the roads,” he said, stressing the Pontiac is not losing any employees and services will remain
the same. “It’s the biggest change I’ve ever seen in [my] 26 years of service,”
he added.
The next Council of Mayors meeting will be held March 21.