Road to prosperity

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Published on April 17, 2012

Laval High School in Placentia is a modern facility. A sports field for school teams can be seen across from the frontentrance. Enrollment is up, but partly attributed to its move from a Grade 9-12 school to a Grade 7-12 school, according to the Eastern School District.— Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

A noticeably shining point in the Norman’s Cove-Long Cove area is the Isthmus War Memorial. Stores and gas stations in the area were busy as The Telegram came through, though none of the employees would speak on the record about the development in nearby Long Harbour. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The post office at Long Harbour. There’smore mail than usual these days, attributed to individual workers from the Vale work site. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The Cove, as it is sometimes known, at Mount Arlington Heights. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

Of new homes in Long Harbour, each year there has been one or two builds, aside from the one-time construction of this minihome subdivision. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The town hall building in LongHarbour-Mount Arlington Heights also houses the arms-length Long Harbour Development Corporation. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The new fire hall in Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights, found beside the municipal building. New buildings like this one are clear benefits from the Vale project. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The run-down looking bait depot on the waterfront at Long Harbour (at right in frame) contrasts with the vibrant activity resulting from Vale’s investment in construction of its new hydromet processing facility just across the harbour. Only a portion of that development can be seen. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The waterfront road in Long Harbour, within Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

While the highway to the Vale project site at Long Harbour might be newly paved, the road through the town does not suggest prosperity, despite the community's adjacency to the immense, multi-billion dollar industrial development. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

Long Harbour Lodge is a clear sign of investment resulting from the Vale project. The Long Harbour Development Corporation is a partial owner. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

Harold’s Hotel in Placentia. There were more vehicles in this lot before the dawn. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

Across from the North Atlantic station in Placentia and new Tim Horton’s building, the majority of storefronts remain empty. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The North Atlantic station and Tim Horton’s in Placentia. The new Tim Horton’s building is a recent addition. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Published on April 17, 2012

The Ultramar and Robin’s on the Trans-Canada Highway receive steady traffic with commuting construction workers in the early morning hours. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

For towns, bounty of Long Harbour spinoff mix of truth and hype

Residents from Whitbourne to Chapel Arm to Placentia refer to it lovingly as the F-150 parade. It is the train of pickup trucks running twice a day to and from the site of what will be Vale’s hydromet processing plant at Long Harbour.

The parade of construction workers — like coffee cups now passing with regularity out the window of the Robin’s drive-thru — has been held up as a sign of the positive economic impact of the mining development.

However, the spinoff story is not quite as clear if you actually make it into L.A. “Long ‘Arbour. L.A.,” says town postmaster Wanda Keating with a laugh, joyfully slapping the counter in front of her, saying she and others in the town of Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights tend not to refer to the town by its full name.


The post office is built into the basement of Keating’s home. She said sorting the town mail used to take her about 20 minutes, but now takes her 45 minutes to an hour. “There’s a lot more stuff coming in,” she said, attributing it to workers from the site.

That said, plenty of mail and packages destined for the site take a direct route via courier and never making into the town proper, Keating noted.

Getting into Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights likely means driving over the gorgeously smooth Long Harbour Access Road (or Argentia Access Road, depending on who you ask) from Route 100 to the entrance of the Vale site. As you pass the site, turning into community, the road rapidly deteriorates.

The total budget for the town this year is $1 million.

The year before last, many town roads were paved at a cost of about half a million dollars — but driving in, you wouldn’t know it.

“The main road going through the town is the responsibility of the provincial government and that (road) is absolutely ridiculous,” Mayor Gary Keating said.

The town has requested the province fix up the main road in the coming year.


Capital works woes

In a Feb. 21 town council meeting, a motion was called for “the acquisition of boots and coveralls.”

“The town manager (Juanita Gosse) is interested in learning as much as she can about the daily maintenance of our water system. She feels this is necessary so that she can oversee the system and ensure our drinking water is safe, should the need arise,” state minutes from the meeting.

“She doesn’t have work boots or coveralls which she feels she needs to work at the pump house.”

The motion on her behalf was passed.

Meanwhile, upgrades to the town water system first announced in 2009 — $1.4 million for a water treatment plant and water reservoir (cost shared with provincial and federal governments) — have yet to be completed.

“The project is on hold pending issues with respect to water leakage which, if not addressed, would have an impact on the size of the water treatment plant required for the town,” a representative with the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs informed The Telegram.

The town is now requesting funding for another $1.3 million “water infrastructure repair” project in 2012. The mayor says the proposal includes upgrades required before the 2009-approved work can happen.

No decision has been made as to whether the latest proposal will receive funding.

The mayor said investment into “host” communities, connected with natural resource-related projects, should be a given. “If you are the host town, you have to see significant positive effects,” he said.

He also said it is necessary to see people from the area employed at the Long Harbour site post-construction.

Otherwise, “they’re not going to stay here.”


Population steady

Census results for the town suggest positive spinoff from the multibillion-dollar project.

In 2001, the population of Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights was recorded at 362 people. In 2006, the count was 211 — a 41 per cent decrease. As of the last census, in 2011, the population had bumped back up to 298.

However, in comparison, nearby Placentia has recorded a steady decrease from 4,400 residents in 2001 to 3,643 in 2011.

A first glance at school enrollment numbers might suggest positive spinoff, in the attraction of families with young children to the area.

The population at St. Anne’s Academy in Dunville grew from 199 students in the 2009-10 school year to 239 in 2011-12. At the same time, Laval High School in Placentia grew from 184 students to 284 students.

Yet, in the same time period a K-8 school (St. Edmund’s) closed. The closure came simultaneously with the expansion of Laval from grades 9-12 to a grades 7-12 school and the changes together can account for higher enrollment numbers. Meanwhile, enrolment at Whitbourne Elementary has steadily declined.

In healthcare, there has been no marked increase of in-patients at the Placentia Health Centre, as might come with regional development and population growth. Numbers provided in a detailed breakdown by Eastern Health, focusing from April 2008 to April 2012, show an up and down movement of in-patient numbers. The total was 352 in 2008-09 and 247 last year (patients are counted more than once if admitted more than once).


The growth period

This is not to say the Vale project has been worthless to the area.

On the contrary, in Long Harbour, the development ended a 20-year search for a business to take over the vacant “special industrial” space occupied to 1989 by the ERCO phosphorus plant.

Executive director at the Long Harbour Development Corporation, Joe Bennett pointed to 25 new “mini-homes” and a new fire station, with a new fire truck.

The Long Harbour Lodge is newly built and opened in 2011. It currently serves the work site as a staff house. The development corporation is a part-owner in the building and is considering its use as a hotel in future.

More new housing is part of the plans, as 450-500 staff begin day to day operations at the Vale plant. “We anticipate a number of those will want to live and reside in Long Harbour, in close proximity to where their worksite is,” Bennett said.

A new subdivision is going up and will offer from 25-40 housing units.

The current focus is to draw into the town some of the businesses tapping the estimated $125 million in annual procurement contracts associated with the Vale plant.

An industrial park, a gas station, a place to eat and a new recreation plan have all been part of discussions at town hall, though nothing is finalized.

Deputy mayor of nearby Chapel Arm, Shawn Reid, said he believes gas stations and garages in his town have been benefitting during plant construction. A new Home Hardware has gone up as well.

There has been some employment. An electrician by trade, Reid worked at the site for two years and estimated about 30 people from Chapel Arm alone have found work there at some point.

As for the town, “we’re looking to extend our boundaries for more housing,” he said.

Whether those properties will be filled as the Long Harbour project transitions from construction into operation — from thousands of workers to hundreds — remains to be seen.

Reid was asked if he personally approved of the project.

“It depends on what it’s going to be like when it gets up and running. What the pollution’s going to be. But if it’s what they say it’s going to be, it should be no trouble,” he said.

“As for as I’m hearing it’s positive. Except for the traffic in the mornings. A lot of people are upset over that, but that’s just one of the spinoffs.”




New builds: Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights

2010 — 32 residential (mini-homes), one commercial

2011 — Two residential, two commercial

2012 — (To date) Two residential, plus start Middle Pond Subdivision (25-40 living units)

Organizations: Department of Municipal Affairs, Academy in Dunville, School in Placentia Placentia Health Centre Long Harbour Development

Geographic location: Long Harbour, Chapel Arm, Placentia Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights Whitbourne L.A. Argentia Access Road Anne

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Recent comments

  • Brad
    April 18, 2012 - 09:31

    Forever optimistic I am an individual entitled to my opinion as well as anyone else. What my family does and what I do are 2 entirely separate things. The plant is going there regardless and they might as well get the work if they can, that's their choice and has no bearing on my life. At least I'm not hiding behind a false name and will put my opinion out in public with my name attached. I work in the oil industry in Alberta thank you very much and I don't think the world owes me anything, I couldn't find work in NL so I made the difficult choice of moving away from family and friends to better myself, and I don't whine about trying to work in NL like people like you. I probably could have gotten work on site in Long Harbour but I don't agree with that environmental disaster, and I would rather live on the mainland then have to work there myself. Plus the money is better out West. I would appreciate it if in the future you left my family out of this and spoke directly to me thank you very much, as I don't know who you are I can't retaliate. The houses that were sold in Long Harbour you wouldn't get $5000 for them 3 years ago, people are taking advantage of the situation and I don't blame them. Telling me that I wouldn't make it in industry and you are too chicken to publish your name. My family knows my opinion on what is going on back there so I really don't care what someone hiding behind a false name has to say. Keep being forever optimistic because you'll never get a job over there, good luck.

  • Harold
    April 17, 2012 - 19:20

    Forever Optimistic .. tks for informing me that younger kids dont have to travel from LA / Mt A. heights to Blaketown and that chapel arm is their school. im perfectly ok with being corrected. but 25 minutes to nearby Blaketown from Mount A. Heights and Long Hr. on a school bus?? is that really true or you want it to be true? im not sure what it takes to get from Dunville to Laval, im guessing it depends where you live in Dunville but im willing to guess it takes even longer to get from southeast placentia to st. annes in dunville, my point being,, long bus travel is not so great on any school kids, no matter where they are from. as for sour grapes,, because Vale chose Long Harbour,, im perfectly ok with the plant being "down wind" and the vehicle traffic being in your back yard. as for trying to make Placentia look better. i find that comment a little funny but im sure you meant it in a good sense. tks for the chuckle.

  • Forever Optimistic
    April 17, 2012 - 19:17

    Brad - I find your comments so negative and doom and gloom. For someone who have such a large number of relatives that live here... you are certainly painting a false, negative image of the community that I used to live in. There have been a dozen or so older homes sell for an excellent price in the last year or so and they were purchased by outsiders. There have been a dozen or so new homes built in the last year or so in addition to the 32 mini homes referenced in the article. Your quote "What is left over from the Erco days would deter even the most sane person from moving there." Do you consider your brother to be insane??...Didn't he just build a brand new house in Long Harbour next to your family's home and move his wife and children here to live in Long Harbour? You also say the locals are getting a few construction jobs... didn't your mother retire from the oil refinery in Come by Chance and go to work at the construction site in Long Harbour and isn't 9 of your fathers siblings also working there too and living in Long Harbour? I wonder if they share your same views. They are quite lucky...they must have the bulk of the few jobs your're talking about. I haven't lived in Long Harbour for quite a few years but I am trying to get a job on the construction site and so far no luck. I agree with you on the conditions of the roads... that is government's responsibility and they need to step up to the plate.... no doubt about it. As for the most of your views, I think they are nothing but coming from someone who thinks the world owes them... I guess you must work in a flower shop where you live cause I'm sure you wouldn't be able to sleep if you had to work in industry!! Get a grip.

    • Sandy Pond sacrifice
      April 18, 2012 - 09:42

      Forever Optimistic have you been to Long Harbour in the past few years? What has changed for the residents living there in the past 2-3 years since the Vale project started? There is alot done to accomodate industry and a token Fire Hall(which resources Vale will require anyway), but little else. The little infrastructure they have is falling apart, the roads aren't fit to drive, and the water isn't fit for human consumption. The ballfield and playground are falling apart, they ripped out the tennis court to build the motel for Vale, and I still don't see the huge influx of people. You are living in a cloud if you think we aren't getting hosed. What I see is a town divided between those working and those not and people don't get along the way they used to with everyone keeping to their own clicks and the community spirit being nonexistent. I wouldn't be too proud of Long Harbour getting all of that pollution either, people seem to be under the impression that because they are storing their poison in Sandy Pond that there will be no pollution, well you are wrong. I guess the propoganda works on the weak. I figure if you were any good at your job you might have work there by now.

    • Brad
      April 18, 2012 - 09:54

      By the way my father has 4 siblings working there and 1 had to go to Labrador to get work because of the lack of shifts. How about getting your facts straight before spewing off rhetoric that looks good on paper. I find your comments highly offensive and I would never call out someone's family like that. I love my hometown and I just don't like what I see when I go back for vacation. Things aren't rosy as you paint them. I was planning on moving back there to retire someday but now it is ruined forever. There is a little bit of housing construction going on but nothing to write home about.

  • Forever Optimistic
    April 17, 2012 - 16:53

    Harold - you need to get your facts straight. Where did your information about the schools that service Long Harbour come from? The 2 schools that service the children of Long Harbour are a mere 12 minutes to Chapel Arm (K-6) and 25 minutes to nearby Blaketown (7-12) which is probably comparable to what the people of Dunville have to travel to get to Placentia's Laval. If you going to make comments about Long Harbour don't be falsifying the information to make Placentia look better. Maybe its sour grapes on your part because Vale chose Long Harbour over your town.

  • Scott Free
    April 17, 2012 - 13:27

    We can't handle any more prosperity than we have now! Since we struck oil and became a "have-province", pardon me for chuckling uncontrollably,our educational system is in ruin; our medical system is a farce; our infrastructure is deplorable; taxes have skyrocketed; roads are not fit to drive on; and so on; but keep on slurping up that good ole Tory elixer; repeat over and over again; we are a have province; we are a have province. Sadly, we are much more gullible today than at any time in our history.

  • troutbrook
    April 17, 2012 - 12:09

    I agree with Griffin the dupty mayor does need to get his head out of his ARSE THE SITUATION here in Chapel Arm is terrible the price of rent has gone from $400 a mth to $1200 a month price of food has gone through the roof it would not be so bad if people could get a job on the construction site but they can not because the unions refuse to hire them even to wash dishes or sweep floors The dupty mayor says ther are 30 people working from Chapel Arm I know of 3 and those guys are with the union REID included.THERE are no spin offs in CHAPEL ARM the gas station has a contract to supply gas to the site for 3yrs the guys renting houses to the union people do not buy any groceries in town they go to ST JOHNS theres already one grocery store thathas closed its doorsI dont know how traffic like REID said is a spinoff IT is all NEGITIVE IN CHAPEL ARM NO ONE THING POSITIVE ABOUT IT

  • Brad
    April 17, 2012 - 11:48

    The so called spinoff benefits of this megaproject are once again benefiting people who live away from the area. The locals are getting a few token construction jobs that will only last a couple of years until the construction is done. There is nothing to encourage people to move to Long harbour no schools, no groceries, no gas, no sports or extracurricular activities for the kids. Joe Bennett is awfully excited about the eyesore of a trailer park they have built there. The people of Long Harbour are going to live with the noise and the pollution, and if Shawn Reid thinks there will be no pollution then he is pretty gullible. Long Harbour is a town that is being used and abused and they are only a spectator of a multibillion dollar company that is destroying their natural areas. The mayor is too busy blowing the money Vale gave to them building subdivisions that nobody will live in, and tooting his own horn to do anything about the issues in Long Harbour. Guess what Gary the jobs post construction are mostly spoken for and the people have homes outside of Long harbour for the most part, thay won't be moving closer to contaminants and heavy metals. What is left over from the Erco days would deter even the most sane person from moving there. The roads are litle more than cowpaths there and the huge amount of revenue the government will receive over the life of this project should enable them to lay down a few kilometers of pavement. Something needs to be done before a small town next to a major project becomes a ghost town.

  • Harold
    April 17, 2012 - 08:28

    after reading this article, im confussed.. is it about the roads in L.A.? the roads in Placentia? the access roads from TCH to LA or toward Dunville? where did the information about the schools come from? St. Edwars in Placentia closed and some students went to Laval while others went to St Annes academy in Dunville. Laval is a new ultra modern High school while St Annes is a high quality respectable elementary / middle school. young families moving to Dunville would make sense if they have students who attend elementary or high school. moving to Long Harbour, on the other hand, if you have school age children. your kids will have @ 2.5 - 3 hours travel every day to get to school and they will have to travel a dangerous section of highway in order to to attend school in Blaketown. i am in no way putting down nthe people in Long Harbour but it's not a town where i would want to move my kids and have them travel such a long distance to attend school. as for the roads, i agreed that roads in most towns in Newfoundland are in a sad state. every year 1000's of tourists either enter or exit our province through Dunville / Argentia via the Marine Atlantic ferry. naturally the people in the Placentia believe our roads should get priority. wasn't gary keating , mayor of long harbour, on the news a short while ago telling us that VALE was a real financial god send to the town of Long Harbour? when the A and W plant was operational in long harbour, how many people moved in to live in the town?

  • griffin from chapel arm
    April 17, 2012 - 08:23

    The DEPUTY MAYOR of Chapel Arm has got to get his head outb of his ARSETHERE ARE NO spinoffs there are not 30 peopleworking at LA REID is NOT hearing POSITIVE things if anthing it is NEGETIVE ask any one from chapel arm and they will say the same .local 779 hotel resturant union local 1208 labourers union will not hire a single person to work at the contruction site but they will bring people in from all over NL even the MAIMLAND they will even bring their old cronies out of retirnment before they hire from Chapel Arm so nobody working no spinnoffs .Reid has to realize it not the traffic that is negetive its the way the people of CHAPEL ARM are being treated by these 2 unions that has people PISSED OFF.