Mayor says Celgar meeting 'not a top priority'

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
July 10th, 2009

In response to Celgar’s latest statements regarding its decision not to pay its $3.6-million municipal tax bill, but to file suit with the B.C. Supreme Court against the city tax rate instead, Mayor Lawrence Chernoff said he’s not sure meeting with Celgar is even an option anymore.

“What it really boils down to is that (they) filed the writ, and now we need to know whether we’re eligible to continue the conversation or not,” Chernoff said. “First of all, we need to find out what the legal boundaries are.”

He said the real priority, for the city, is to address the vaccum in the budget created by Celgar’s actions.

“At this stage, we need to figure out how we’ll proceed financially … to keep the city operational,” Chernoff explained. “That’s my number-one priority. When I lose $2.8 million (from my bduget), I’ve got some work to do quickly and properly (to address the lack). Then we’ll look at the next step.”

Having said that, he added he’s disappointed with the manner in which the whole issue was handled.

“He (mill manager Al Hitzroth) should have known that a 50-per-cent cut in one year was ridiculous,” Chernoff said in reference to Celgar’s demands in 2008, when the budget was being formalized. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Chernoff then referred to several tax cuts in 2006 and 2007 that add up to roughly $300,000 per year as well as the one-per-cent cut to major industry taxes (factoring in inflation) in 2008.

“They’re discounting all of that … is that doing nothing?” Chernoff said, adding he doesn’t see the city as blameless in the lack of communication between the two entities, but he doesn’t see this as a reasonable response. “Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up the phone before going to court? We’re trying to build relationships here, not destroy them.

“To me, this wasn’t the right way to do it.”

He said he hopes there can be some easing of tensions that lead to constructive problem-solving with the whole community’s interests at heart.

“We’re willing to work with Celgar – of course we want to help in any way we can,” he said. “And we understand their situation, but we have no control over the pulp market or what took place in the world economy.”

More on the city’s position on the matter will likely be forthcoming in this Monday’s regular council meeting, slated for 7 p.m. at the Community Forum.


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