Botwood Mayor Jerry Dean has high hopes for the Port of Botwood.
He’s optimistic that there will be a decision soon from the provincial government regarding the expression of interest for the fibre resources in central Newfoundland through new ownership of the old AbitibiBowater properties.
He also hopes the town will soon own more property.
“We’re also edging our way closer and closer to signing off, hopefully, with the federal government with the divestiture of the federal assets,” Dean said. “All these things appear to be coming together.”
Due to a confidentiality agreement, Dean said he can’t provide any more details, other than to say they had good meetings.
“There’s been offers made and right now we’re in the process of working with our consulting firm and some other partners in formulating a business plan for presentation to the provincial government,” Dean said.
He said council is happy with the appetite of both provincial and federal governments and how negotiations are proceeding, adding the biggest part left is the business plan to preset to the provincial government.
“We’re really upbeat at this point in time with regard to the reception and the response from the federal government and ... with the provincial government. So we’ll see how things unfold, and hopefully sometime in the next four- to six-month time frame we’ll be able to either walk away from the table or sign off on something. But at least we’ll be able to call it a day.”
Dean said the former AbitibiBowater properties the town purchased are being used. A shipping company with several vessels has been doing winter repairs there.
“We’ve had shipping activity, not shipping activity that’s exporting newsprint like we did for almost 100 years, but we didn’t buy the Abitibi properties and have them sitting there for the last three or four years,” Dean said. “We’ve still got interest from the federal coast guard service and we’ve got, at times, other shipping operators coming in to do various types of businesses pertaining to liquid asphalt more than anything else. There is some opportunity there.”
Dean is also looking forward to more to come for the central region.
The mayor was at an event recently where Premier Kathy Dunderdale was guest speaker.
“In her speech she spoke of some of the seismic research they have been doing and some of the great finds that they found just north of us here, and as premier she encouraged ... she put us all on notice, that we need to be ready to go at the drop of a hat over the next few years in terms of some offshore opportunities,” Dean said.
“I guess what we’re saying is at one time we were an offshore supply base, and we believe that we’re going to see that come full circle again, whether through acquiring the Abitibi properties or our ... efforts to secure and upgrade the federal properties.”
Dean said he doesn’t want the business community to say they can’t go to Botwood due to lack of infrastructure.
“So this is a good chance for the provincial government, when they get our business plan, to do everything that they can do to make it work; accept our business plan and come on side with the Exploits Valley Port Corp. and the federal government in bringing the divestiture of the federal facilities in Botwood to fruition for all the right reasons.”