GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor has been after the provincial government for the past three years to turn over the rights to the former Abitibi mill property.
Conversations are still ongoing, but Mayor Barry Manuel is hoping the town will take ownership of the property sooner rather than later.
The property – and the riverfront in particular – will play a big role in the town’s future, Manuel explained.
“Essentially, we want it all,” Manuel told the Advertiser. “We want all that land. It’s an important part of our past when you consider the mill, the industry, the river and everything that has come from that, and how the town has grown from that.
“But it’s also a very important part of our future. We need to get that land, so we can plan future development”
In its latest correspondence with the provincial government, the town has been asked to define its request even further.
The town is now in the process of drawing lines out on maps to define exactly the amount of property it wants.
“That will be submitted sometime in the very near future,” Manuel said.
Grand Falls-Windsor House
The mill property doesn’t only include Grand Falls-Windsor House, but all of the property along the Exploits River and the site where the old Abitibi paper mill once stood.
The request for ownership has been ongoing for such a long time, some residents wonder about the structure of Grand Falls-Windsor house and whether it has been left there to deteriorate.
Manuel told the Advertiser government has been taking care of the property and the house itself, just last year fixing up the roof and doing some small projects inside the building.
“Structurally, the building is still in pretty good shape,” said Manuel. “They’ve been maintaining the heat over the years, they’ve been maintaining the grounds and the houses.”
A recent study revealed lead paint and asbestos inside the building. If left undisturbed, these issues are not dangerous, Manuel said.
But until the mill property is turned over to the town, there won’t be any serious discussions about what should happen with the house.
“Until we determine the fate is of that property – it’s a moot point right now,” said Manuel.
Environmental clean up
The mayor said the town won’t know the severity of contamination at the site without further testing.
“The whole environmental piece is a part of our discussion (with the province). The town doesn’t want to assume full responsibility for environmental contamination on that property, nor should we.”
The mayor said a complete clean-up is unlikely.
“I don’t think anybody expects that property to be cleaned up in its entirety,” he said. “We would like that to happen, but when you consider the likely cost of that sort of activity, it’s unlikely.
“We also know there are some new technologies that allow development over contaminated ground, barriers that are laid on the ground where there’s no leeching down or up when it comes to contamination,” he added.
While the town has been working towards taking over the property for years, it will not go into it blindly or be stuck with the consequences, said Manuel.
“We have to be careful in making sure that this is not going to be a burden on the town in any respects.”
The town is still in discussions with the province, and “we hope that government will act quickly, and we can get the property turned over and start planning for what exactly will occur down there in the future,” said the mayor.
“We expect to be able to use that property to the benefit of the community as it has always been in the past.”